By Matt Murphy
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JAN. 10, 2011….Rep. Vincent Pedone on Tuesday deferred to his colleagues over whether there should be a special election to fill the Worcester House seat he’s vacating, while Rep. William Brownsberger said he was prepared to respond to his constituents from the Senate if his seat goes unfilled in 2012.
Following concerns raised by Secretary of State William Galvin about the cost and practicality of holding special elections this spring to fill both House positions, House Speaker Robert DeLeo said Monday he is leaning against calling for special elections, a plan that would leave over 82,000 residents without representation for the next year.
“This is a decision for the members of the House and no one else. I know there are some challenges and the House members will determine whether a special is warranted,” Pedone told the News Service on Tuesday.
Pedone said he plans to resign from the House on Friday, Jan. 20 in order to start his new job as the executive officer of the Council of Presidents of the Massachusetts State University System the following Monday.
Asked after 19 years of representing the people of the 15th Worcester District whether they deserved to have someone on Beacon Hill looking out for their interests over the next 11 months, Pedone said that was a question better directed toward the remaining members of the Worcester delegation.
“It’s not relative what I think about that. My opinion on it is nothing,” Pedone said.
Meanwhile, with Brownsberger poised to win his uncontested election to the state Senate on Tuesday, residents of Belmont, Arlington and Cambridge could soon find themselves in the same predicament.
“I think I have a lot of respect for the secretary of state and I’m sure the speaker is listening to his concerns. If they decide not to hold an election, I’ll do everything in my power to make sure the people of my current district are well served during the interim,” Brownsberger told the News Service on Tuesday as he visited store owners in Watertown.
Brownsberger’s is the only name on today’s special-election ballot after winning a four-way Democratic primary, though Belmont Republican committee chairman Tommasina Anne Olson is running a write-in sticker campaign.
After redistricting, the contours of many House districts are scheduled to change for the 2012 elections, but the courts have maintained that special election candidates must run under the old configurations. DeLeo said that would create a scenario in which candidates would be campaigning in one district, while gathering signatures in different precincts starting in February for a 2012 re-election effort should they prevail first in a special election.
“My gut feeling is that I’m very concerned about folks not having a representative for a period of time. Having said that, I seem to be sort of on the side I think of not putting the cities and towns through the expense,” DeLeo told the News Service on Monday. “Not that it’s not worth obviously having a state rep, but I think there’s another thing involved here.”
Brownsberger agreed that preparing ballots for a March 6 presidential primary and organizing nomination papers in newly configured precincts, while also running a special election in an old House district posed some challenges. There is also the added cost of running an additional election to be considered, he said.
“I think there are practical difficulties and costs that weigh heavily on the minds of both the secretary of state and the local officials,” Brownsberger said. “It is certainly (a long time to go without a state representative), but in terms of local considerations I’ll be able to make sure everyone gets well represented.”
Though the Legislature typically adjourns at the end of July for an abbreviated session during election years, the House is expected to deal with several major pieces of legislation in the coming months, including the budget, health care reform and sentencing reform.
Without a special election, a new representative from each district would not be sworn in until early January 2013.
Pedone, who first came to the Legislature in 1993, said he looked forward to advocating for public higher education in his new role at the council that will keep in him close contact with elected leaders.
“I loved representing my community in the State House as a member of the General Court. I love the institution. The people I work with are great, solid men and women and I am going to miss that, but this is an opportunity not only for me to advance my professional career but it also allows me to stay in and around the people I’ve developed relationships with over the past two decades,” Pedone said.
Under new ethics laws, Pedone will be prohibited from lobbying the Legislature for a year after he departs.
Having witnessed a string of scandals involving former colleagues during his tenure on Beacon Hill, Pedone said he never lost faith in the work that gets done under the dome.
“The institution is strong. Speaker DeLeo has put together a great leadership team, Senate President Therese Murray is one of the great leaders in the Commonwealth, and Gov. Patrick and his administration have developed a public policy agenda that is moving our Commonwealth forward. The cynicism that exists in the public isn’t anything new. The greatness of the institution is that you can overcome that by working together, Democrats and Republicans,” Pedone said.