Far left looks to pounce if Speaker DeLeo leaves House post

The possible departure of House Speaker Robert DeLeo will likely trigger a fierce battle between far left progressives and more moderate lawmakers for control of one of the most powerful perches in state government.
Massachusetts already has one of the most liberal state legislatures in the nation but it’s not liberal enough for some frustrated activists who want to see it lurch even farther to the left.
There’s a chance that progressives could mount a strong campaign to insert one of their own into the speaker’s chair but it would take a major effort.
The 70-year-old DeLeo, who has been speaker since 2009 — the longest run ever for a speaker — is reportedly looking to move on soon, taking a teaching job at Northeastern University, though aides deny there have been any talks with the school.
“The speaker has had no such talks with, much less does he have any agreement with, Northeastern University,” spokeswoman Catherine Williams said.
But there was no denial in that statement that DeLeo was looking to resign.
So the behind-the-scenes maneuvering to replace DeLeo is clearly on.
Sources say the clear favorite to replace DeLeo is 74-year-old Ronald Mariano of Quincy, who is the current majority leader.
Mariano would be essentially a place holder for a few years until the real battle emerges to replace him.
But progressives are itching to take power now, and they don’t want to wait for more of the same old, same old for a few more years. Now’s the time to pounce.
DeLeo and Mariano are both considered establishment liberals, which means they still govern from the left but not the far left.
And they are both white males, which is another problem. Despite more women and minorities being elected to the Legislature, the House is still governed by a powerful man.
That could trigger an attempt by a group of women lawmakers to get behind one of their own, like Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia Haddad of Somerset.
DeLeo’s departure would also be a chance for lawmakers to enact real reform — and remake the Legislature from top to bottom and make it actually transparent.
DeLeo is infamous for keeping a tight rein on his power and keeping the House behind closed doors for most of its real debate.
That could change with a new speaker who believes more in transparency and real ethics reform.
Unlike his three predecessors, DeLeo was never indicted or convicted of corruption, but he was named as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in a patronage scheme in the Probation Department.
If he leaves unscathed, it would end a long streak of corruption in the House, though one of his top lieutenants is facing corruption charges now.
But it would take a sharp turn in attitude to turn the Legislature into a bastion of reform. And that likely won’t happen as long as lawmakers get free passes term after term facing no opposition or little more than token opposition.
If you don’t have to worry about re-election why would you change?

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