Robert DeLeo

Mass. Speaker DeLeo Discloses Plans to Negotiate With Northeastern, Indicating He Is Stepping Down

In a letter to House officials, DeLeo said he plans to negotiate a job opportunity with Northeastern University

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Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo told officials Friday that he plans to negotiate a job with Northeastern University, formally paving the way for him to step down from his role.

"I write to disclose that I intend to begin negotiating prospective employment opportunities with Northeastern University," DeLeo wrote in a letter to House officials.

DeLeo -- the longest-serving speaker in state history -- emphasized that while he intends to discuss job opportunities with the school, he has not yet "personally" held those discussions.

The Democrat from Winthrop has been speaker for 12 years after being elected to the House of Representatives in 1990. DeLeo went to college at Northeastern before getting his law degree at Suffolk University Law School.

DeLeo said he asked his personal legal counsel to contact the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission to "ensure compliance" with laws designed to protect against conflict of interests.

In a statement, DeLeo said the disclosure was "not currently required" but said he chose to make it "out of an abundance of caution."

Gov. Charlie Baker said he spoke with DeLeo Friday when the speaker called to let him know he was filing the ethics report. Baker didn't ask DeLeo to stay on, the governor said.

"Those are really personal decisions and people should make whatever they think is the right decision given the circumstances and I basically just thanked him for the call and that was that," Baker said.

He said that his only concern about DeLeo leaving would be that "there's a whole bunch of pretty important pieces of legislation kicking around" that he'd like to be sent on his desk before the end of the session, and hopes the House can still focus on that. But he said he has worked well with the two candidates who have expressed interest in replacing DeLeo.

DeLeo's departure has already set up a scramble to see who will take his place.

The heir apparent is House Majority Leader Ron Mariano of Quincy, but that is by no means a lock. State Rep. Russell Homes has confirmed he will challenge Mariano for the post to NBC10 Boston and NECN.

"How did I get here? Why am I running? I believe that this building is structurally racist," Holmes said in a phone interview Friday. "That is because for the last 300 some-odd years those are the only folks - the way system is set up - who have been able to get to power. It’s not because women or people of color are incapable.”

Holmes said his running offers an alternative to DeLeo's top deputy and alters the course of what was shaping up to be a smooth leadership transition.

"There have been many, many people who have voiced disappointment with leadership over the years to me. The problem is no one is willing to put their name on the ballot," Holmes said. "Now I am. Folks will have an alternative. They can make that choice."

He traced Mariano's ascension to the edge of the speaker's chair back to former Speaker Sal DiMasi, who put DeLeo in a position to succeed him before he resigned in 2009 ahead of his indictment on corruption charges. He said he sees the same "back-room deal" happening now between Mariano and House Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz, a Mariano mentee who is expected to remain in the powerful budget-writing post if Mariano prevails.

"We should rip up this poisonous tree. Rip it out of the ground start it anew," Holmes said.

Holmes, a Mattapan Democrat and past leader of the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, said he made his decision Thursday night after speaking with Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia Haddad, who told him she did not intend to run. Had Haddad made a bid for the post, Holmes said he wouldn't have run.

Now that he's in the race, Holmes has vowed to stay in it.

"At this point, yes, I'm going to run against DeLeo even if he stays," Holmes said.

As speaker, Holmes said, he would rein in stipends for leadership positions, which are wielded by the leader of the House and can be used as a tool to keep people in line. He has long advocated for a more equitable and transparent pay structure and process for assigning offices and other perks, and he said the House would be a place that encourages people to continue their careers outside the State House.

"This is not about politics, this is about whether you want to empower yourself, empower your people to have the voice they should have when they walk into this building," Holmes said. "That voice should be equal to everyone else’s and never suppressed."

The State House News Service contributed to this report.

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