Dot Dems split over Speaker

When House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi was up for re-election earlier this month, Dorchester lawmakers united behind him. Three weeks later, the Dorchester delegation appeared divided over who should be DiMasi's successor after the thirty-year representative tendered his resignation amid a cloud of ethics questions stemming from his relationship with his former accountant.

Reps. Marty Walsh and Brian Wallace were pushing for Rep. John Rogers (D-Norwood), the House Majority Leader, who conceded on Tuesday after DiMasi's farewell speech that he didn't have the 81-vote majority required to become the next Speaker. He and Rep. Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) have been competing for the next speakership behind the scenes since late 2007.

Reps. Linda Dorcena Forry and Willie Mae Allen were among the 90-plus Democrats siding with DeLeo.

Reps. Marie St. Fleur and Gloria Fox reportedly were still undecided and could not be reached for comment before press time.

Allen said she only made up her mind recently out of loyalty to DiMasi.

"He always had time to stop in and listen," she said of DeLeo.

She called DiMasi a "very devoted community leader."

Forry had similar praise for the North End Democrat. "He has done so much for [gay] marriage," she said. "Before that, the issue of equal marriage never made it to the floor."

Forry said she was supporting DeLeo because of his ability to build a "coalition of people."

Walsh, a longtime Rogers supporter who often disagreed with DiMasi, said Rogers was the chair of House Ways and Means during the last fiscal crisis in 2002. Walsh supported Rogers when Rogers and DiMasi faced off for the speakership in 2004.

"I still feel he would've done a better job up to this point," Walsh said. "I'll be the last guy off the ship. And I'll be the first to congratulate the new speaker."

Walsh said he voted for DiMasi earlier this month in order to extend Rogers' campaign for speaker.

A North End Democrat, DiMasi came to power in 2004 when House Speaker Thomas Finneran resigned amid controversy over a legislative redistricting lawsuit. Finneran later pleaded guilty to federal obstruction of justice charges.

DiMasi, affable and popular with members, had served as judiciary committee chair and majority leader.

When Gov. Deval Patrick took office, DiMasi served as his top foil, frustrating Patrick's early initiatives.

DiMasi had been weakened by ethics controversies, including his former accountant's involvement with ticket resale legislation that cleared the House but stalled before the Senate, and the awarding of a state contract to a software firm that reportedly directed payments to a handful of his allies.

In his resignation letter, DiMasi said he had reached the decision Sunday with "mixed emotions," and did not detail the pressures attending his resignation. He said he intended "to combine my legal and consulting work with many of the major issues we have addressed together during my time as Speaker," health care access, and clean and renewable energy.

Material from State House News Service was used in this report.