Robert DeLeo

Mass. Speaker Robert DeLeo to Step Down This Week, Ending 12-Year Run

DeLeo -- the longest-serving speaker in state history -- will formally step down down Tuesday at 6 p.m.

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Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo on Monday announced he would formally step down this week, ending a 12-year run during which he oversaw the legalization of casino gambling and passage of landmark health care, gun control and criminal justice reform laws.

In a letter read in the House chamber Monday, DeLeo -- the longest-serving speaker in state history -- said he would step down from the speakership and as a member of the House, Tuesday at 6 p.m.

"It has been an honor and a privilege serving as a member of this institution for almost 30 years," he wrote in the letter. "The faith and trust my colleagues placed in me by electing me as their Speaker for a record 6 consecutive terms fills me with a profound sense of gratitude and appreciation."

The announcement comes after DeLeo earlier this month told officials he planned to negotiate a job with Northeastern University.

At the time, DeLeo said he had 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.

In his resignation letter, DeLeo added he believes the House is well positioned for "continued success" after he steps down.

His departure will allow the House to choose a new speaker before the next session begins. Majority Leader Ron Mariano, who entered the House the same year as DeLeo in 1991, appears to have the votes locked up to become the next speaker.

However, State Rep. Russell Homes earlier this month 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 earlier this month. "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.

Holmes, a Mattapan Democrat and past leader of the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, said he made his decision 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.

Gov. Charlie Baker earlier this month said he spoke with DeLeo 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.

The State House News Service contributed to this report.

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