The seven who bucked the tide, Reps. Atkins, Callahan, Calter, Canessa, Quinn, Stanley and Torrisi, were gutsy beyond even the credit that Abraham gives them this morning. Because theirs was not simply a bet that Sal would, as he did, ultimately fall from grace and resign his recently-renewed Speakership. Just because DiMasi is gone does not mean all is forgiven and forgotten within the Democratic caucus. Those seven marked themselves with their votes as the rare Beacon Hill legislative Democrat who will not automatically fall into line with leadership in response to promises or to threats. Rep. Quinn tells the Globe, “I’ve had more pats on the back or whispers in my ear saying ‘John, you were right, you had the backbone to stand up there and I wish I had done that.’ ’’
Say you’re one of the 135 Democratic legislators who voted to keep Sal DiMasi as House speaker back in January. Right now, you’ve got to be feeling even chumpier than usual, which hardly seemed possible until a few days ago.
After all, how much dumber could you look? On Jan. 7, you reelected DiMasi, even though you knew about his shady connections to a software firm that won millions in state contracts. You did it because he brought you back from legislative Siberia, or because he shared your priorities, or because you didn’t want to risk his wrath.Man, that must hurt.
Whatever the reason, you stuck out your neck for him. And three weeks later, he stuck it to you by resigning. Then he got indicted on federal corruption charges, which made you look like even bigger dopes. The whole thing was fading from voters’ memories until Tuesday, when the feds added extortion charges to the mess. When it comes to other shoes dropping, this guy is Imelda Marcos.
Sadly, there's a reason that his colleagues are still whispering their praise. It's the same reason none of the 'brave seven' is in leadership, and only one (Torrisi, co-chair of the joint committee on higher ed) has a committee chairmanship. Sure, DiMasi is gone. But he was replaced by Bob DeLeo, his hand-picked successor. There's been no suggestion whatsoever that DeLeo shares in DiMasi's ethical shortcomings. But it is indisputably the case that while the king changed, the regime remained more or less intact. And so the ramifications of the votes cast by those seven Democrats linger.
Soapbox time: the only way to fundamentally change the paradigm in the Massachusetts legislature - the one that resulted in an overwhelming majority vote to reelect a guy who was about to be indicted based on facts that had been plastered all over the newspapers for weeks - is to restore some semblance of partisan balance in the Legislature.