Russell Holmes For Speaker? We Could Do Worse

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Will Massachusetts have a great option to succeed departing state Representative Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) as House Speaker?


DeLeo may soon leave the House, as he is reportedly close to taking a position at Northeastern University. Two other Democrats have announced that they are running for Speaker:  House Majority Leader Ron Mariano (D-Quincy), a longtime lieutenant of DeLeo; and state Representative Russell Holmes (D-Mattapan).

If not DeLeo, someone has to be House Speaker. And given the numbers in the House, that someone has to be a Democrat.

Sadly it probably won’t be state Representative Colleen Garry (D-Dracut), the most level-headed Democrat in the chamber. There is no indication that she’s seeking the position.

But if a vote is coming in the next day or two, as Holmes recently told State House News Service, then conservatives ought to hope that Holmes is the next speaker.

Is he perfect? No. Could he be better than DeLeo? Yes. He would certainly be better than Mariano.

Now, it’s fair to say that neither candidate is a conservative. As of 2019, Holmes had a lifetime American Conservative Union rating of 4 percent. Mariano’s was 3 percent. In a left-leaning Legislature, you have to expect left-leaning leadership.

What we’re really talking about when it comes to a leader, though, is priorities. Are his priorities mere’y misguided? Or are they also destructive?

Let’s take a look at voting records.

For starters, Holmes voted against the ROE Act, the worst piece of legislation to enter the Massachusetts State House in memory. Any bill that allows doctors to deny life-saving care to newborn babies is barbaric. Yet the Left is for it. So Holmes deserves credit for voting against it.

Mariano voted for the ROE Act.

At this writing, the abortion bill may take effect or it may fail. The key is why we are still talking about it in late December. Bob DeLeo decided to make it a priority, so he altered the norms (such as a vote out of committee) to keep the bill viable. (So to speak.) Seems unlikely a Speaker Holmes would have done that.

Additionally, Holmes was one of three Democrats last year to vote against giving up to $8 million in state money to family planning clinics that provide contraception for poor people – even if they also refer people for abortions or perform abortions at the same site. That included Planned Parenthood.

Again, the Left was for it. Mariano voted for it. Holmes voted no.

On issues of transparency and reform, Holmes also gets it right. That’s why he has a better Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance scorecard rating than average. His 27 percent rating this year cracked the top 10 among Democrats. Mariano got a 2 percent rating.

For example, Holmes supports giving members of the legislature time to read stuff. That includes giving House members and the public 72 hours to read a bill before it comes up for a vote, giving House members 24 hours to read a bill before a committee votes on it, and 30 minutes to review amendments of a bill before a vote. He wants committee votes to be made public and an eight-year limit for House Speaker, according to his MassFiscal scorecard.

These are all welcome additions to our system — and things Mariano opposes. We should want our lawmakers making informed decisions, and the public deserves to know what those decisions are. Not having term limits benefits the establishment and incumbents in this state — not the people. Term limiting the Speaker could put us a step closer to term limiting everyone in the legislature — something that could eventually help conservatives gain seats since it’s so difficult to beat incumbents.

And on education, Holmes could even be an ally to conservatives — and even to the Republican governor, Charlie Baker.

Holmes is from a part of the state that doesn’t have the best public schools, unfortunately, but in 2014 he supported gradually raising the cap on charter schools. It’s consistent with the position on his campaign web site that says, “I support expanding charter schools into struggling communities, so long as their progress is carefully measured.” Earlier this year, he stopped by the KIPP Academy in Boston to speak with students, an indication that he still supports charters. Meanwhile, when there was a proposal for a charter school in Quincy back in 2010, Mariano opposed it.

Is Holmes the great friend of conservatives on taxes, immigration, gender identity, COVID lockdowns, affirmative action, or welfare reform? Probably not. However, if he is anything other than a cheerleader for the Left’s worst impulses, that’s about as much as we can ask for at this point.

There would be a precedent if Republicans back Holmes for Speaker to prevent a Democrat they see as worse from earning the position. In 1996, 34 of the 35 Republican legislators voted for Thomas Finneran for Speaker, helping him to a majority.

The results were mixed. But mixed is pretty good for Beacon Hill.