June 3, 2022 — Tanisha Sullivan delivered the following speech at the Massachusetts Democratic Party Convention on June 3, 2022, where she won the endorsement for Secretary of State:
I am Tanisha Sullivan, I’m running for Secretary of State, and I humbly ask for your vote.
In this moment, America faces existential threats to our democracy.
Candidates for office from local municipalities to the highest in the land have suggested that election results don’t matter. Meanwhile, voter suppression efforts continue in an attempt to disenfranchise communities of color.
These threats are rotted in deep disparities that impact our ability to advance economic, racial and social justice.
Here in Massachusetts, some may say we’re different – that we’re above what’s playing out in states across the country. After all, we are the liberal bastion of the nation – and government still seems to work. For who?
Massachusetts is different, but what makes Massachusetts different is our pioneering legacy.
We laid the blueprint for universal health care.
We were the first to advance marriage equality.
We were among the first to have public schools, hospitals and libraries.
And, almost 250 years ago, we led the fight to establish our democracy.
Today, that fight continues as a battle rages across our nation for the soul of our democracy…
In this moment, at this time … it is clear that in order for us to advance our democracy…
Massachusetts must rise up and be a beacon for the rest of the nation.
As many of you know I grew up in Brockton, the daughter of a public school educator and small business owner who believed deeply in the power of education and economic opportunity.
Their work helping people and communities realize their potential has no doubt left an indelible mark on me…
After graduating UVA and obtaining my JD/MBA from Boston College, I’m now in my 20th year of legal practice.
And following in my dad’s footsteps, I served as Chief Equity Officer in the Boston Public Schools.
And I’m a civil rights leader, volunteering as the President for the NAACP Boston. I’ve worked with our communities to advance the social, racial, and economic justice necessary in an expansive democracy.
So when I think about what has led me to this moment, it’s the fact that there is no office in our state with more duty or responsibility to advance the fullness of our democracy than the office of Secretary of State, and need the office to engage.
Friends this is more than registering people to vote or issuing certificates of good standing.
It’s ensuring we are a beacon in our democracy – and not just a captive of Beacon Hill.
This isn’t a job that gets done filming PSA’s, it requires active engagement.
This office should be the soul and hold promise of our democracy…
Serving as a reminder to each generation of our calling to manifest the hope, the dream and belief of our ancestors.
This office cannot settle for good enough…it must actively work for more.
So let me make this clear. When it comes to voting you better believe I’m fighting for more.
Massachusetts isn’t leading on voting rights – we’re lagging.
Right here in Massachusetts, we are nearly 50 years – a half century – behind other states on essential voting rights like same day registration, which Maine adopted in 1973.
And we are still fighting for permanent mail-in balloting… which voters in Georgia and Texas can already do.
And the fact is that despite record voter turnout in 2020, voters from our most vulnerable communities still saw the lowest turnout across Massachusetts… leaving far too many voices unheard and unaccounted for at the ballot box.
BIPOC voices, working families and the disability and immigrant communities …
Our seniors, especially in rural communities and residents experiencing poverty.
These are our neighbors who are left out when we have reactive leadership.
It’s time for proactive leadership that understands voting is not a privilege – it’s a right. Leadership that will actively root out and dismantle every barrier because low voter participation is choking our democracy.
Simply put, Massachusetts needs a Secretary of State who … but fights on the ground with us 365 days a year for the inclusive democracy we deserve – in partnership with advocates, elected officials, organizers, and communities on the frontlines… it is time.
Because who casts a ballot determines who we elect which determines all of our rights…
The right to unionize
And reproductive rights
Because who we elect determines whether we will see racial economic, environmental and social justice in this country…
It all ties back to voter participation.
Who gets to vote, when and how…
We need a Secretary of State who understands our communities… and does more than visit them every four years. Or simply appear on their TV screen.
As Secretary of State:
I will work with local elections officials and community members to develop an equitable plan to distribute the millions of HAVA dollars available today. Those funds and others will help bolster election security and help our municipalities and local organizations with voter education and outreach.
I will work with impacted communities to develop a plan to increase voter participation centered on building relationships in low turnout communities.
But building a strong democracy doesn’t end with voting and elections…
As your Secretary of State, I’ll work to ensure our government leads the nation in transparency.
Today Massachusetts is one of the least transparent states in the country, leaving journalists, advocates and residents buried in a sea of red tape.
That’s not an accident. We need a Secretary who will push back against excessive production fees and delay tactics that prevent public information from coming to light.
As Secretary of State, I will advocate for full reform, fighting to ensure that PUBLIC information is available to the PUBLIC.
Lastly, Massachusetts suffers from deep economic inequality. As your Secretary of State, I will harness the power of this office to help expand economic opportunity.
Massachusetts is the most expensive state in the country to start a business. The local neighborhood diner pays the same registration fees as the Cheesecake Factory.
We need a Secretary of State who has an equity lens and will fight for fee structure reform AND serve as a conduit between small businesses and the support they need to be successful.
I know this is a heavy time in our country. Gun violence. Reproductive freedom under attack. Systemic and persistent racism. Growing economic inequality, democracy under attack and a polarized political ecosystem.
These are the challenges that test our democracy. We are at an inflection point.
When America has faced inflection points in the past, Massachusetts has always been a beacon. Not by accepting the status quo or being passive– but by believing in what’s possible and fighting for it. Massachusetts needs to be a beacon again.
Because this moment demands more.
We deserve more.
And as your Chief Democracy Officer, I commit to working with you to deliver more.
Thank you. I humbly ask for your vote..
About Tanisha Sullivan
Tanisha is an attorney, former Chief Equity Officer in the Boston Public Schools and President of the NAACP Boston, who has led a career dedicated to service — from working in community and across the ideological spectrum to deliver on civil rights and social, economic, and racial justice, to decades as a practicing lawyer in corporate firms and life science companies. A Brockton native, she’s running for Massachusetts Secretary of State because it’s time to realize the full potential of this office in the fight to protect voting rights, increase government transparency and accessibility, engage the electorate, and build a stronger, more vibrant democracy for all.