One day after House Speaker Robert DeLeo resigned, the Speaker Ronald Mariano era began.
The House elected Mariano, a 74-year-old Quincy Democrat and longtime DeLeo deputy, as its next speaker Wednesday with 123 votes, and he takes control of the House six days before the end of the unusual 2020-2021 lawmaking session.
All 31 Republican members of the House voted for Minority Leader Brad Jones as speaker rather than Mariano. Independent Rep. Susannah Whipps of Athol chose Mariano. Democrat Rep. Denise Provost of Somerville voted present, while Democrat Reps. Jonathan Hecht and Tami Gouveia did not appear to cast votes.
Mariano, in his first speech as speaker, cited COVID-19 response as his top priority.
“All of us have faced challenges, whether it be with at-home learning, providing for the oldest and youngest in our care, or with maintaining our own mental health. And certainly no one has sacrificed more than our frontline health care workers, public safety personnel, and even our grocery store clerks,” Mariano said. “The climb back to where we were just one year ago will be a long one, but this is job number one: meeting the needs of each resident throughout this time of crisis.”
Mariano named other issues he wants to address, including the lack of affordable housing—a topic that he said could be addressed with “meaningful zoning reform” —rising pharmaceutical costs, strengthening community hospitals and investing in offshore wind.
He will need to be re-elected as speaker Wednesday at the start of the 2021-2022 two-year session, but must first navigate the final days of this two-year session.
After launching a speakership bid of his own and warning against “another backroom deal” to decide House leadership, Rep. Russell Holmes turned around an nominated his onetime opponent to serve as the next House speaker.
Holmes nominated Mariano by acclamation during a Democratic caucus Wednesday afternoon that lasted less than two minutes. On Monday, Holmes said he would no longer run, and his nomination of Mariano was a sign of unified Democratic support behind the 74-year-old majority leader.