Mass. House Speaker Robert DeLeo Says Farewell, Steps Down After 12 Years

"It's so hard to say goodbye to this place, and to the people with whom I've worked so closely and love," DeLeo said in goodbye speech

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Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo -- the longest-serving speaker in state history -- formally stepped down Tuesday after he said goodbye in an at-times emotional speech.

DeLeo was applauded as he took the House floor Tuesday afternoon ahead of his 6 p.m. resignation and thanked his legislative colleagues, the body's staff and the people who have elected him.

"It's so hard to say goodbye to this place, and to the people with whom I've worked so closely and love," he said.

The half-hour-long speech ended with him stating his belief that the body he was leaving will continue its work through the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic.

"I know that I have unyielding faith in this institution, its people, all of its members and its leadership; that this house is going to rise to the occasion and our great state, Massachusetts, is going to continue to lead this nation."

In a letter to the House chamber Monday, DeLeo wrote that he would formally step down, 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.

Robert DeLeo, the speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, is leaving to join Northeastern University.

"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 -- which was first reported by NBC10 Boston's Alison King.

The Democrat from Winthrop ends a near three-decade career on Beacon Hill that began when he was first 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. A Democratic caucus to elect a new speaker has been scheduled for Wednesday at noon.

Majority Leader Ron Mariano, 74, appears to have the votes locked up to become the next speaker. He entered the House the same year as DeLeo.

"I will be a candidate for Speaker at this week's Democratic Caucus and I am confident that my colleagues will elect me to lead the House through the remaining days of session. We have a lot of work to do overriding budget vetoes and completing conference committee negotiations. I am focused on seeing that work continue uninterrupted," Mariano said in a statement.

State Rep. Russell Homes said he would challenge Mariano earlier this month, but he has since announced he will no longer seek the post.

Holmes, a Mattapan Democrat, said he decided to end his candidacy after talking with many of his colleagues over the past two weeks, including a conversation he had with Mariano on Wednesday evening before the Christmas break.

"For whatever different reasons, folks were clearly with Ron and it made sense for me to not be a sore loser and throw mud into the process just because I could," Holmes said. "Folks heard my perspective. It was laid in front of the members and they've decided they want to move forward with Ron, and I have to respect that."

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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