Chris Lisinski, State House News Service
In a rare move, a special legislative panel will convene public hearings Friday to take a closer look at two House elections, including one between Rep. Lenny Mirra and Democrat Kristin Kassner, that were decided by extremely narrow recount votes.
The three representatives on the panel—Democrat Michael Day of Stoneham, Democrat Daniel Ryan of Charlestown and House Minority Leader Brad Jones of North Reading—said in a joint statement Monday they will invite candidates in both contests and their lawyers to the State House to discuss the elections.
“The Special Committee of the House to Examine the Returns of Votes for Certain Representative Districts today announced that it will hold hearings on the contested races in the 1st Middlesex and 2nd Essex Representative Districts,” the trio of lawmakers said in a joint statement.
The panel plans to focus on the Second Essex District, which Kassner won by one vote over five-term Republican Mirra, at 10 a.m., followed by the 1st Middlesex District, which Democrat Margaret Scarsdale topped by seven votes over Republican challenger Andrew Shepherd, at 2 p.m.
House Speaker Ronald Mariano said the night before the start of the 2023-2024 term that the House would delay the swearing in Kassner and Scarsdale until the special committee completes an examination of the contests.
The House, where Democrats hold a supermajority, voted last week to keep Mirra in his seat until the three-member panel makes a final decision about the contest.
“Both challengers had legal options they were not able to exhaust. I weighed the difference between allowing them to use their legal options to the limit versus the question about whether or not who the winner was,” Mariano said Monday of the House’s moves.
Asked if ordering a new special election in either race was an option, Mariano replied, “It depends on what the committee decides. I would be shocked if that was the case, but who knows.”
All four candidates confirmed Monday that they plan to participate in the hearings on Friday.
Kassner said in an interview that she is “confident in the certified election results” and plans to make that point to lawmakers.
Mirra emerged victorious by 10 votes in the original certified election results, but a district-wide recount flipped it to a one-vote win for Kassner. He said, “We’re confident that once the committee looks at these contested ballots, we’ll prevail.”
(Sam Doran contributed reporting.)