Demoted in House shake-up, Holmes says it’s punishment

Holmes
Rep. Holmes

Rep. Russell Holmes isn’t buying Speaker Robert DeLeo’s claims that his ouster on Monday from a vice chairmanship was totally unrelated to Holmes’s critical comments about the future leadership of the House.

“If they believe that, then call me because I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I want to sell them,” said the Mattapan Democrat who last week advocated for a challenge to the speaker, adding, “this is about not giving my loyalty to the speaker.”

The dispute stems from Rep. Brian Dempsey’s announcement last Thursday that he would depart from his powerful position as chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means to work for the lobbying firm ML Strategies. Dempsey was widely seen as DeLeo’s likely successor and after he announced his upcoming exit from the House, Holmes told the Boston Globe that the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus should be “strong and united in our selection of the next speaker of the House.” Holmes also told the Boston Herald last week that “the next speaker conversation begins in earnest this moment.”

The Herald reported that Holmes is looking for potential challengers to the speaker in 2019 – when DeLeo will likely up for re-election for the post – quoting him as saying, “I think a year and a half is a good time for a conversation and debate to happen, for people to put out platforms.”

On Monday, when House Democrats ratified DeLeo’s selection of Rep. Jeff Sánchez to succeed Dempsey, they also ousted Holmes from his vice chairmanship of the Housing Committee. Holmes called the move “petty,” linking it to his recent comments, while DeLeo disavowed it had anything to do with that.

Asked Monday afternoon if Holmes was demoted because of his remarks, DeLeo said, “No, no, not at all. You have to look at this as a holistic approach, and you have to look at the team as a whole in terms of what is best to serve the House, and nothing at all relative to that,” he told reporters.

DeLeo said he makes his decisions around committee assignments “in terms of putting the best team together that you see and fitting people into places with their expertise and whatnot.”

Holmes defended his professional credentials, saying he has a degree in mechanical engineering from Boston University, a master’s degree in business from Northeastern University, and a career at a financial firm.

“We as black people still have to work twice as hard, still have to have twice the education to get what other folks are getting,” Holmes told the News Service. Holmes said the “onus is on the speaker” to explain the move and he hasn’t heard from him.

“I learned through the press that I was demoted. That’s what I mean by lack of leadership,” said Holmes.

Holmes said he “had an excellent relationship” with Rep. Kevin Honan, a Brighton Democrat and the House chairman of the Housing Committee. He said he has heard from constituents who are upset about his demotion and he is asking them to contact the speaker’s office. “Folks are angry,” Holmes said. “They’ve called me at home. They’ve come by my house.”

The speaker’s office did not provide a response to comments Holmes made to the News Service on Tuesday.

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