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Tanisha Sullivan, Candidate for Secretary of State of Massachusetts

As a part of my Meet the Candidate Series, I sat down and talked with Tanisha Sullivan, Candidate for Secretary of State of Massachusetts.

Tanisha’s family has deep roots in Massachusetts. Her father was born and raised in Boston and spent his career working in the Boston Public Schools, retiring in 2014 as the school leader at the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science. Tanisha’s mother was born in Boston and moved to Mansfield at a young age. She spent several years working in media before opening her own small businesses – a home daycare system- and helping connect and amplify Black-owned businesses across New England as publisher of the Black Pages of New England in print and online.

Tanisha was born in Boston and raised in Brockton. After attending Thayer Academy in Braintree, she graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in Government. She then attended Boston College where she obtained both her J.D. and M.B.A. Tanisha has practiced law in large firms and life sciences companies in Greater Boston and New York City. From 2013 – 2015 Tanisha served as Chief Equity Officer in the Boston Public Schools.

Following her parents’ example, Tanisha’s life’s work has been focused on service, equity, and impact. In 2017, Tanisha was elected to serve as President of the NAACP Boston in a volunteer capacity. There she led the organization in its fight for racial, economic, and social justice with a data driven and solutions-oriented framework. As a civil rights organization, voting rights is a priority for the NAACP, and Tanisha has led efforts to expand access to the ballot box and make our communities more representative.

Now, she is running for Secretary of State to help lead the fight to protect and expand voting rights, create a more transparent and accessible government, and foster greater economic opportunity for everyone in Massachusetts.

Topics discussed in this episode include:

  • Tanisha’s Background (01:35)
  • The Office of Secretary of State, and why Tanisha is running (03:03)
  • Massachusetts room for improvement in Tanisha’s eyes (06:18)
  • Same Day Voter Registration (09:25)
  • Tanisha’s proudest accomplishments as a Public Servant (14:29)
  • Closing Statement (18:30)

Connect with Tanisha Sullivan

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Transcript – Please note, this Transcript is AI Generated. It has not had the discerning ears of a real human to edit it, as such, there are bound to be a few errors

Jimmy Tingle 0:00
Hello, everybody, welcome to the Jimmy tingle show. I am Jimmy and I want to introduce you to a new segment of our show the Meet the candidate series. It is intended to give candidates running for public office, a platform in a voice so voters know who is running for office, why they’re running and what they hope to accomplish if they are so fortunate to be elected. So please feel free to share these interviews with your family and friends and citizens around this fine land because an educated and informed population is essential for a healthy democracy. And isn’t that what we all really want a healthy democracy? Enjoy the interviews stay healthy. My name is Jimmy tingle, and I approve this message. Our candidate right now was Tanisha Sullivan running for secretary of state of the fine state of Massachusetts. Tanisha was born in Boston and raised in Brockton. She graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in government that she then attended Boston College where she obtained both a law degree and an MBA. And from 2013 to 2015. Tanisha served as the chief equity officer in the Boston Public Schools. And in 2017 Tanisha was elected to serve as the president of the NAACP in Boston in a volunteer capacity. Please welcome to the show, the one the only candidate for Secretary of State Tanisha Sullivan. Hello Tanisha How are you today?

Tanisha Sullivan 1:30
Jimmy? It is great to be here with you. I’m fantastic. Hope you are too.

Jimmy Tingle 1:35
Yes. So tell us tell give us a little bit about your background Tanisha and tell people you know what you’ve been up to?

Tanisha Sullivan 1:42
Yeah, so I mean, as you share it up, you know, born in Boston, raised in Brockton, Brockton, of course, is known as the City of champions home of Rocky Marciano and marvelous Marvin Hagler. My dad was a public school educator spent 40 years in the Boston Public Schools, my mother is a small business owner really working to help ensure that small businesses have access to the resources they need to be successful. And I’m in my 20th year, I cannot believe it 20 A year of practice of law, I’ve had the opportunity along the way to serve in our public schools in the Boston Public Schools really working to ensure that our young people have access to quality public education. And for the last now, six and a half, almost seven years, I’ve had the honor of serving our communities as the volunteer president for the NAACP in Boston, where we’ve worked with local government, as well as state government, elected official stakeholders to really advance public policy to help improve quality of life for residents across the Commonwealth. I’m really excited about being with you here today and sharing a little bit more about why I’m so excited about the Secretary of State’s race.

Jimmy Tingle 3:03
Yeah, well, tell us what why are you running for secretary of state? First of all, tell us what the Secretary of State does, because a lot of people know the title, but they’re not always, you know, sure of the actual duties and why you run for that office?

Tanisha Sullivan 3:17
Yeah, I think this is one of the most exciting offices in STATA. It is a statewide office. So regardless of where people live in Massachusetts, the Secretary of State is of service to you. This office is the Office responsible for voting and ensure voting rights and ensuring that we have safe and secure elections that we can trust. So, of course, as a civil rights leader, that’s critically important to me, because there’s no greater civil rights issue in our country today than the protection of our democracy in the fight for voting rights and access to the ballot box. So that’s a fight that I look forward to really helping to lead here in Massachusetts. The office is also the Chief Information Office. So if you want to know what’s going on in government, you want to access public records. This office is the one that can help you do that. Unfortunately, Massachusetts is known as one of the least transparent states in the entire country. But the Secretary of State can actually help to ensure that people have access to the information we need to not only hold government accountable, but to also be able to participate in government. You mentioned Jimmy I graduated from UVA, you know, UVA is one of those. One of those institutions in our country that really focuses in on government and democracy and self governance in order for us to be as we the people to be part of government. We got to have access to information The Secretary of State can help with that. Secretary of State is also the gateway to business in Massachusetts. So if you want to start a business, whether it’s a small corner store, or you’ve got a great idea that you’d like to develop, you got to go through the Secretary of State’s office. And so my certainly my legal background, I’m a corporate lawyer, I’ve spent now almost 20 years working in this space really comes into play here, I’m really working to ensure that especially the small businesses have access to the resources they need to be successful. So the Secretary of State’s office has about 16 divisions that fall under it. So it’s the elections, its information, its business, its even our historic archives. I think this office has some of the greatest potential to help improve the quality of life for residents across Massachusetts. And I’m running to be Secretary of State, because I think the office really needs to be more proactive and engaged, connected to our communities, so that we can do more to help everyday people really experience all of the opportunity that Massachusetts has to offer.

Jimmy Tingle 6:18
So tell me in terms of politics, do you think we’ve been doing a pretty good job here in the state of Massachusetts? And do you see areas for improvement that you specifically would like to want to work on?

Tanisha Sullivan 6:30
Yeah, so the thing is, Jimmy, here in Massachusetts, we do have, we’ve got a good foundation. But unfortunately, the the barometer that we use to determine how well we’re doing is by looking at Georgia, Texas, Arizona, and Florida. And, quite frankly, you know, that’s not the measuring stick. In my opinion, we are a little behind other states on some basic voting rights, like same day voter registration. So same day, voter registration was adopted by Maine in 1973, almost 50 years ago, folks in Maine have been able to basically, if they if they’re eligible to vote, show up at the polls register and cast the ballot without being concerned about a registration deadline. 20 other states, including our sister, New England, states can do that. And unfortunately, here in Massachusetts, we cannot. And the reason that’s important is because here in Massachusetts, we have low voter participation rates, that impact that are impacting communities across Massachusetts, meaning what happened in elections were maybe 10, or 15, if we’re lucky percent of the voting population is turning out to vote. What we know today is that who votes determines who gets elected, and who gets elected, actually, those are the folks who get to make a lot of the decisions that impact our lives. So we need more people voting. And so as Secretary of State, that will be my top priority to help increase voter participation by ensuring that math that we here in Massachusetts aren’t comparing ourselves to Georgia, Texas and Florida, but that we here in Massachusetts are actually helping to set the pace, leading the way for the rest of the country on access to the ballot box and ensuring that people across Massachusetts are actually casting that vote, which is so important, you know, and that’s going to require us Jimmy to do things a little differently. Yes, we’ve got to focus on the nuts and bolts, the administrative pieces. But we’ve also got to focus on the relationship pieces. This office, the Secretary of State’s office, I believe, needs to be a more active and engaged community member, helping our municipalities, our local town clerk’s and elections officials, our community based organizations, and other stakeholders, build the relationships with residents and citizens across Massachusetts that can help to restore and build trust in government that will then hopefully motivate people to cast a ballot. That’s the type of work that I look forward to doing.

Jimmy Tingle 9:25
When you talk about same day voter registration. I remember this came up, when, a couple of years ago, I was talking to somebody just off the record. I said, You know what, why don’t we have that. And this gentleman who knows the political landscape, he says, you know, a lot of the politicians don’t want it, because they’re, there’s, like 50,000 students or 100,000 students in the Boston area, they could all go down on one day on election day, and like, completely changed the course of the election if they all got by one candidate or one ballot initiative. So I think that’s it consideration. But my question to you is, as Secretary of State, can you just decree that in from your position? Or do you have to work with legislature to change some laws? Or is that something that would be voted on? How would something like that be implemented or come to be part of the the law?

Tanisha Sullivan 10:19
Great. So two things. One, I want to be very clear that voting is a right. And it is absolutely my goal, and will be my continued goal as Secretary of State to ensure that citizens across the Commonwealth are exercising that right, and that we’re doing all we can for them to do so. And if that means that we’ve got more young people casting ballots, we need that because we can’t have we can’t I don’t think I don’t think we should be advancing a system where some people are participating and others are not we should be encouraging, encouraging more people to cast ballots young people, people of color, folks from working class families and low income families participating in the process makes us a stronger democracy. In order for us to have same day voter registration, it does take an act of the legislature. But guess what the Secretary of State is the chief elections officer, the top official in our government responsible for voting rights. If the Secretary of State wants to have a law passed, that helps to advance voting right than the Secretary of State can and should be able to work with our legislature to make that happen. As you shared at the top, Jimmy, across the country, we’re seeing the influence that other secretaries of state have had, in their local jurisdictions, some are good, some are not so good. So here in Massachusetts, our Secretary of State as the chief elections official, as the chief voting rights advocate, can and should be leading the way, helping our legislature understand the importance of the advancement of voting rights, and the importance of breaking down barriers of access for eligible voters across the Commonwealth. That’s the type of Secretary of State I will be someone who isn’t just, you know, I’m not just going to file legislation in partnership with the legislature, I’m going to fight right alongside folks across the Commonwealth to ensure that our rights are protected, and that we’re doing what we need to do to increase those voter participation rates so that all voices are heard.

Jimmy Tingle 12:41
So you see yourself as being more of an advocate than just a, just the, quote, Secretary of State with a detached relationship to what’s going on.

Tanisha Sullivan 12:51
I think it is critically important for the Secretary of State to be a champion for voting. Now, this is an office that is responsible for voting rights risk, irrespective of who folks are voting for. And so I want to be clear, my number one goal is to increase voter participation. And that’s for everyone. For me, it’s not about who you’re voting for, but that you are actually casting a ballot, and that we are all actively taking an interest in what’s happening in our communities, really working to ensure that, you know, this great experiment we call the American democracy is actually delivering for all of us freedom, justice, and equality. And the way that works best is if more of us are casting a ballot. And so yes, I will use this this office as a way to help ensure that the people of Massachusetts have our voices heard that the people of Massachusetts have access to the ballot box. And for those who are starting businesses, they have access to the tools they need to be up to, for their businesses to thrive. And for those who are interested in really getting involved in government, that they have the opportunity to access the information they need in order to do so. And that does require I believe, a Secretary of State who is proactive, who is engaged who is a champion for the people.

Jimmy Tingle 14:29
Tell me some of your proudest accomplishments as a public servant, in your role at the NAACP or in the Boston Public Schools or whatever, wherever you will tell me some of your proudest accomplishments.

Tanisha Sullivan 14:41
Yeah, I think, you know, for me, it is. It has been the way that we’ve gone about advancing educational equity, economic opportunity and health equity, really working across the ideological spectrum, really centering people in the needs of people. People in our work. And so, you know, we’ve we’ve taken on some really tough fights and some emotional fights. But we’ve done it in a way that is sought to bring people together, and at the end, improve quality of life for all people. So the work that we’ve done in the health equity space, of course, through the COVID 19 pandemic, I served on both the city of Boston health equity Task Force, as well as at the state level, under the baker administration, his health equity Task Force to help ensure that all of our communities had access to the resources they needed through the pandemic, testing, access to information and of course, as the vaccines became available access to vaccines, and ensuring that the policies that were in place were not restrictive, but we’re more inclusive, to ensure that the most vulnerable among us had access, we were also able to tackle Jimmy, another tough issue, and that was policing reform. And the way that we did it was by work by bringing together community and law enforcement, to really to sit around the table together, and to come up with advancements that centered our communities centered public safety, and was certainly respectful of the role that community and law enforcement both play and as a result in the city of Boston, we were able to advance historic policing reform. That is really people driven, community driven. And at the state level, we know, you know, here in Massachusetts we have, we were able to usher in historic policing reform, the other area where, where we’ve seen a lot of success and where I’m really happy, we were able to make advancements within the supports for small businesses, small micro businesses, veteran owned minority owned women owned businesses in our communities, really working to deliver on the financial resources they need to be successful. So working with, with our state of elected officials, the governor’s office working with other stakeholders, we were able to help deliver $191 million in supports for small businesses. The last area, I will lift up because I am the daughter of a public school educator, I was the chief equity officer in the Boston Public Schools, the work that I was able to do alongside our teachers unions, and elected officials to help usher in more equitable funding for our public schools is certainly something that, that I’m I was happy to be a part of, we always have more work to do in the education space. But there again, a we, we were able to work with others, which is important in government, and to work with others to identify solutions that really in the end are helping to ensure that all of us, especially our most vulnerable, have access to the resources and the supports they need to thrive.

Jimmy Tingle 18:30
So Tanisha, please, how about a closing statement, and then let the viewers know where they can find out more about you if they want to volunteer? Get involved in your campaign? Make a contribution, please let them know.

Tanisha Sullivan 18:42
Thank you so much, Jimmy, I again, appreciate the opportunity to be with you today. And with your viewers and listeners today. I am Tanisha Sullivan, you can find me at Tanisha, t a n i s h a solvent, su l li vi There, folks, if you’re interested in learning more about me or about the vision I have for this office, you can find that information there. You can also join our team become a volunteer or make the contribution to our campaign through the website. You know, I do believe that this is a critical moment in our democracy. I believe that this is a moment nationally and locally, where we are at a crossroads. And the Secretary of State’s office has an important role to play. And not only ensuring that this great experiment in American democracy survives this moment, but that it actually moves forward in a way that delivers for all of us. I’m running for Secretary of State to be a partner in our communities to be someone who will champion the protection of voting rights and who will also work to ensure that all aspects of our democracy is working are working for all Let us I hope to earn your support on September 6.

Jimmy Tingle 20:04
Thank you so much Tanisha we really appreciate you being here today. I will see you on the campaign trail, I am sure And ladies and gentlemen, Tanisha Solomon, candidate for secretary of state of the fine state of Massachusetts. Thank you for joining us today. This has been a humor for humanity production. Our mission is your mission humor for humanity at Jimmy Thank you

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