By Bob Katzen

The buzz at the Statehouse last week was that House Speaker Bob DeLeo (D-Winthrop), now in his 12th year as speaker, would soon resign from the House and take a job at Northeastern University.

On Wednesday, December 16, the report was denied by DeLeo’s office. “The speaker has had no such talks with, much less does he have any agreement with, Northeastern University,” DeLeo’s spokeswoman Catherine Williams told the State House News Service in a one-sentence statement.

Two days later on December 18, DeLeo filed a letter with House Clerk Steve James. “I write to disclose that I intend to begin negotiating prospective employment opportunities with Northeastern University,” read the letter. “As of today, I have not personally had any discussion with anyone from Northeastern University relative to any possible employment opportunities.”

The letter continued, “On December 16, 2020, I requested that my personal legal counsel contact the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission to discuss my status and to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Conflict of Interest Law. Although based on my current status, a disclosure is not required, I have nevertheless elected to disclose my intention to begin negotiating prospective employment opportunities with Northeastern University out of an abundance of caution.”

Part 2 of the buzz was that if DeLeo does get the job at Northeastern and resigns, his second-in-command, House Majority Leader Ron Mariano (D-Quincy) who has been at DeLeo’s side since he became speaker, would run for speaker. That also turned out to be true. “If Speaker DeLeo resigns, I will be a candidate for Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives,” said Mariano on December 18. “I believe I have earned the trust and confidence of my colleagues and that I have gained their support to lead the House forward.”

In the meantime, 5-term incumbent Rep. Russell Holmes (D-Boston), the past leader of the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, announced his definite plans to run for speaker if DeLeo resigns. Holmes has criticized DeLeo for years including the time he told Beacon Hill Roll Call that “the speaker is like a shepherd leading a flock of sheep.”

“I’m running because of the many conversations that I have had with members of how the power and influence in this building is concentrated in just a few people,” said Holmes in a letter to his cooleagues. “I’m running because you have all worked very hard to get here and our constituents expect us to be at the forefront for change in this country. We can’t deliver to our fullest potential until we are all respected as equals and we do not operate and make decisions out of fear and thoughts of retribution. I will be reaching out over this weekend. Please feel free to call me on my cell … or let me know the best number to reach you.”

The remaining buzz, not yet proven, is that Mariano already has the necessary votes to be elected speaker. He has been quietly working behind the scenes to secure votes of his Democratic colleagues for months in case the speakership opened up.

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