BOSTON — Two top progressive House lawmakers are backing House Majority Leader Ronald Mariano in a potential speaker’s race should House Speaker Robert DeLeo resign from his post, they told the News Service on Friday afternoon.
As a potential transition of power within the House looms, Reps. Tricia Farley-Bouvier and Jack Patrick Lewis, co-chairs of the House Progressive Caucus, said they believe the Quincy Democrat can provide a smooth transition of power and strong leadership. The two lawmakers, who spoke to the News Service in a joint interview, said they were not speaking on behalf of their caucus but rather as individuals.
“We’ve had the opportunity to work with Leader Mariano as a leader, but also as a partner in legislation over these last several years, and in this time of great uncertainty, with so many issues in our commonwealth and with our constituents struggling through this unimaginable pandemic, we need a smooth transition,” Lewis said. “We need a strong leader. We need someone who will be a partner. And for me, that is Leader Ron Mariano.”
Mariano on Friday publicly announced his bid for the top post in the lower chamber after DeLeo filed an ethics disclosure with the House clerk indicating his intention to begin negotiating “prospective employment opportunities” with Northeastern University, his alma mater. DeLeo has served as speaker for 12 years and has been in the House for 30 years.
Rep. Russell Holmes also announced Friday his intention to challenge Mariano for the job should DeLeo resign. The Mattapan Democrat previously served as leader of the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus and said he decided to run after speaking with Speaker Pro Temp. Patricia Haddad, who said she would not run for the position.
The talk of DeLeo potentially stepping out of public life comes at a busy time for the Legislature and with only 18 days left in the 2019-2020 session. Farley-Bouvier said the potential change in leadership “adds another challenge to one of the most challenging years ever.”
“A lot of people out there, teachers, nurses, doctors, law enforcement, a lot of people are doing really hard things and have stepped up,” the Pittsfield Democrat said. “And yes, this is a really hard thing. And we, as members of the Legislature, just need to step up and do something hard. And that’s what we’re gonna do. And part of that is making sure we have a strong and smooth transition.”
Four conference committees negotiating bills relating to health care, transportation funding, economic development, and climate change have yet to find compromises. The House is also dealing with amendments from Gov. Charlie Baker to the fiscal 2021 budget and a sweeping police reform bill.
Lewis said if a speaker’s vote occurs before the end of this session, he is confident “that my colleagues have the ability to continue to support their constituents to move this vital legislation forward, and ensure that we elect a strong, passionate, new speaker.”
“As Leader Mariano reiterated earlier, the focus right now needs to be on getting these bills across the finish line, overriding several of the governor’s recent, problematic vetoes, and making sure our constituents and small businesses are taken care of during this pandemic,” he said.