Just to Get a Rep: DeLeo Takes the Throne


Whether your Beacon Hill representative is a Budweiser-shaped high school jock leftover with a bald spot bigger than his brain, or a do-good female activist with ornate lapel pins for every day of the month, chances are he or she misrepresented your voice this afternoon, when 137 out of 160 legislators voted to anoint Winthrop Representative Robert DeLeo as the new Speaker of the Massachusetts House.

I’m pretty sure that DeLeo is a decent dude, and a family man, and all of that fuzzy stuff. And he’s served the people of Winthrop well and blah blah blah. But as nearly every columnist, analyst, and constituent letter to an editor has noted in some way or another: for anyone who’s unfamiliar with backroom protocol 101, it appears beyond ridiculous that – amidst a storm of local and national ethics scandals – a sweet majority of reps would back a leader whose recent behavior has yet to be sentenced in the court of public scrutiny.

The legislative conga line – that started shimmying through the hallowed halls when the power struggle between DeLeo and Majority Leader John Rogers officially ended – wound up in the Gardner auditorium today at noon. The Democratic caucus before the official floor vote got off to a sappy start, with Revere Representative Kathi Reinstein spitting some of the lamest sentimentality ever thrust upon a microphone. I’m sure some reps found the vignettes about her father and DeLeo to be endearing, but, to those of us who don’t belong to their club, the mushy spiel just reminded that alliances and family trees weigh far too much on Beacon Hill.

After Reinstein’s nomination of DeLeo, Patricia Haddad of Somerset put her stamp on it, then passed the mic to Brookline Representative Jeffrey Sanchez, who compared DeLeo to John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts for which the new speaker’s hometown is named for. Breaking from the smoke blowing, Rogers delivered an emotionally thunderous sermon that I’m dubbing the “Three Houses” speech, in which he admitted to and apologized for his ethical blunders, and convincingly communicated that he believes that the House is bigger than any one man or woman. These might sound like obvious statements, but around here they’re milestones.

In between the caucus and House sessions, legislators (and at least one sticky-fingered reporter) enjoyed a catered lunch courtesy of Bob DeLeo in the Great Hall. The new speaker’s presumptive message: “Thanks for your blind vote of confidence, now how about a turkey sandwich?” Either that or: “You had better get something in your stomach now because I plan to thank everyone I’ve ever met once I take that podium.”

The floor vote went as expected, with even those who were DeLeo’s nemeses as recently as yesterday nodding for the new speaker. All 16 Republicans supported North Reading Representative Brad Jones, while Creedon, Bosley, Canavan, and St. Fleur were no-shows, and Sutton badass Jennifer Callahan voted “present,” stating afterwards: “There were no debates…This was a done deal behind closed doors…Nothing has changed except for the name plate on the door at the end of the hallway…There are no losers in the House of Representatives – the losers are the people of Massachusetts.”

Which brings me to a few questions that I have for legislators and anyone else who might have answers. One – is it really possible that the only representative with balls is a woman? Two – why does former Senate President Robert Travaglini – a registered lobbyist – get to hang out on the House floor every time that there’s a party? And three – why doesn’t the House have a closed ballot process to vote for its leadership? Wouldn’t that end the bullshit and land the best man or woman in the big chair? Duh.

Asked if he had any indication about how screwed his allies might be when committee assignments get passed down, Rogers simply stated that he asked DeLeo to “resist the pettiness and vengeance” that generally guide such decisions. He can ask all he wants. In the wake of his former adversary’s “Three Houses” banger, and DeLeo’s own address, in which he promised to foster “a harmony and cooperation that this House hasn’t seen in a while,” it won’t be easy for the new speaker to hip check foes and reward cronies. He’ll do it anyway, and he’ll get reamed for it in the press, but it won’t be easy.

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