Hedlund resigns Senate seat ahead of Weymouth mayoral inauguration
By State House News Service | December 24, 2015, 14:25 EDT
BOSTON — Set to become the next mayor of Weymouth in a little more than a week, state Sen. Robert Hedlund on Thursday formally filed his intent to resign his seat on Jan. 4, a step required before the Senate could consider scheduling special election next year.
Hedlund, a Republican who was elected mayor of the South Shore town back in November and is due to take the oath of office a week from Monday, opted against filing the irrevocable letter sooner, which could have allowed the Senate to set a special election to coincide with the state’s March 1 presidential primary as the House did to fill Fitchburg Mayor-elect Stephen DiNatale’s seat.
Secretary of State William Galvin said recently there is no longer enough time to set a special election March 1.
While timing the special election with the presidential primary could have saved the state and potentially his community tens of thousands of dollars in expenses required to hold an election, Hedlund recently told the News Service he was simply following the law. It’s unclear why Hedlund decided to submit his letter on Christmas Eve, and not simply wait until Jan. 4.
“If you look at the history, what I’m doing has been the procedure of the Senate for 200 years or more. I’m following precedent. I’m following the Constitution,” Hedlund said a few weeks back when asked about his intentions.
For a time, Hedlund thought he might be able to both wait and have the primaries in the special election race to fill his Plymouth and Norfolk seat coincide with the March 1 presidential primary, but Galvin nixed that idea because he said it created conflicts for voters who might want to draw different party ballots in the presidential and Senate contests.
Hedlund said the practice of allowing letters of intent rather than actual resignations to serve as a trigger for scheduling a special election started in 2003 when then-Sen. Cheryl Jacques resigned in November allowing a special election to fall on same day as the 2004 March presidential primary.
Hedlund said this was done to give her aide Angus McQuilken an advantage in the race with the expected high Democratic turnout for a presidential contest, but McQuilken ultimately lost that race to former Republican state and U.S. Sen. Scott Brown.
“That was done clearly to give her aide a political advantage. It was done for political reasons. It wasn’t done for process reasons,” Hedlund said.
Hedlund continued, “I don’t set the date. I don’t set the calendar. I didn’t draft the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and I didn’t write the town charter in Weymouth. I’m sort of bound by all that, but when I looked at the situation there were three factors. I want an ease of transition, an ease for the communities that have to undertake the process and certainly a consideration was a level playing field for everyone who wants to take a look at the race and compete.”
Sen. Anthony Petruccelli, who announced in the first week of December that he too planned to resign from the Senate to take a job at the downtown lobbying firm Kearney, Donovan and McGee, presided over Thursday’s session when Hedlund’s letter was read into the record.
Petruccelli, of East Boston, told the News Service after that he planned to remain in the Senate until the branch’s first formal session of the new year on Jan. 21 when he will deliver farewell remarks, but he said he may submit a letter of intent to resign before then.
Hedlund’s South Shore district includes the towns of Duxbury, Hingham, Hull, Marshfield, Norwell, Scituate, Cohasset and Weymouth.
Republican Patrick O’Connor, an aide to Hedlund and Weymouth Town Council president, and Democrat Paul Gannon, a former state representative from South Boston who now lives in Hingham, have both announced their candidacies for the soon-to-be-open Senate seat. Joan Meschino, executive director of the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice and former Hull Selectman, has also taken steps to become a Democratic candidate for the set, but has not formally announced a campaign.
Written by Matt Murphy