Dorchester delegation signed off on interim Senate appointment

Despite some initial reluctance among some members, the Dorchester delegation overwhelmingly voted this week to hand Gov. Deval Patrick the power to appoint an interim U.S. senator.

State Sen. Jack Hart (D-South Boston) was the lone vote against the proposal. State Rep. Martin Walsh (D-Savin Hill), who had some doubts about the vote, said he had spoken with U.S. Sen. John Kerry on the importance of Massachusetts having two senators. “It’s basically what did it for me,” Walsh said, noting that constituent services in the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy’s office are mandated to halt work with a vacancy. “That’s my number one reason for it,” Walsh said.
Walsh also hit back against Republican claims of Democratic Party hypocrisy. “This doesn’t turn anything back,” Walsh said, adding that a special election must still occur under the proposal. Republicans also argued that the rules were being changed mid-game, since the special election is already underway.

With respect to his “no” vote, Hart, a member of the Legislature’s Election Laws Committee, Hart told the State House News Service, “This is the possible proverbial straw that might break the camel’s back in terms of the public trust in us.”

The Legislature changed the appointment law when Kerry was running for president and appeared on the verge of winning. State Democrats took away appointment power from then-Gov. Mitt Romney.

Among House members, the following voted on Thursday for the proposal: state Reps. Willie Mae Allen, Gloria Fox, Linda Dorcena Forry, Marie St. Fleur, and Brian Wallace. Like Walsh, Wallace had also expressed doubts. The House vote was 97 to 58, with Democrats joining some Republicans in opposition; Second Suffolk District’s Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Jamaica Plain) has said she supports the change, and the Senate’s vote of 24-16 sent the bill to the governor’s desk on Tuesday.

Names widely being circulated for the appointment include former Gov. Michael Dukakis and former Democratic National Committee chairman Paul Kirk.