State Rep. Russell Holmes is running for Speaker, with the Mattapan Democrat vowing to end “backroom deals” that he says have plagued the House for too long under Robert DeLeo and his predecessors.
“We need to uproot this poisonous tree,” Holmes said, referring to the criminal corruption under previous Speakers and the norm of secrecy under the current one, the reportedly exiting Robert DeLeo.
Holmes said DeLeo, who confirmed rumors on Friday when he told the State Ethics Commission that he’s eyeing a job at Northeastern University, has consolidated power far too much, and said he doesn’t want the Speakership to just pass to DeLeo’s top deputy, Quincy’s Ron Mariano, without a fight.
“I didn’t think we should just roll over and let this happen,” Holmes, a financial planner who was elected from Boston’s Mattapan neighborhood in 2010, said in a phone interview Friday morning. “It can’t just be more backroom deals.”
He said he’d hoped the number three Democrat, Pat Haddad, would run, but she told him Thursday night that she’s not going to. Haddad’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request fro comment.
Holmes said he’d look to decentralize power, bringing the Speaker’s pay back down to the other reps and making the processes from everything from getting parking spaces and staff members to acquiring committee chairmanships more transparent.
“It’s all just so consolidated, financially,” Holmes said. “Politics has become our careers and life experiences — and that’s the opposite of what the founding fathers wanted.”
Holmes, who’s Black — and would be the only Speaker of color in the state’s history — decried the lack of people of color in DeLeo’s leadership team and among committee chairs.
“It makes my district and other districts like it have less of a voice,” Holmes said, referring to his heavily Black district.
Mariano, a longtime rep, has been at DeLeo’s right hand as Majority Leader since the Winthrop Democrat took the speakership.
“We have a white guy handing the speakership to another white guy,” Holmes said.
State Rep. Claire Cronin, D-Easton, told the Herald on Friday that she doesn’t see a race for the speaker “being any possibility” because she’s “confident that Leader Mariano has the votes to be the next speaker of the House once Speaker DeLeo chooses to step down.”
“I already think that Leader Mariano has more than enough support,” Cronin, the House chairwoman of the judiciary committee, said. “I believe strongly that he will be the next speaker.”
Holmes acknowledged he faces an uphill battle. He said when he started calling people Thursday night, he spoke to people who said they pledged support to Mariano two, three years ago.
“I’m a praying man,” Holmes said. “I’ll be working the phones over the weekend, calling all 160 members.”
DeLeo, 70, is set to be the first Speaker in this century to leave to top job without being ousted by criminal charges. He’s already the longest-serving Speaker in the state’s history.
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