It's Always Fun to Flip the Pages of the Book on New MA Legislators

Saturday, February 2, 2019

On Tuesday, January 2, the 200 members of the Massachusetts legislature -- 40 senators and 160 representatives -- were sworn into office for the 2019-20 session.

The 200 included 5 new senators and 25 new reps, although I'm stretching the word "new" in the case of Senator Barry Finegold of Andover, who was returning to the Senate after a four-year absence. 

You may recall that Finegold gave up this Second Essex and Middlesex District seat to run unsuccessfully in the Democrat primary for state treasurer in 2014, a race won by Deborah Goldberg of Brookline, who was just elected to a second term as treasurer. You have likely forgotten that former Wayland representative Tom Conroy, the ever commendable Tom Conroy, came in third, and last, in that primary.

I should note that Senator Diana DiZoglio of Methuen is also not really new to the legislature.  She has represented her community in the House for the past four years, and before that she was a legislative aide.

The 30 (mostly) new legislators who took their oaths on January 2 are evenly divided by gender: 15 are female and 15 male. It happens that 3 of the 5 new senators are women, while 12 of the 25 new reps are.

This group of 30 reflects the continuing ill fortune of the Massachusetts Republican Party.  Only 3 of them are members of the GOP; all three are in the lower branch:

Rep. Norm Orrall of Lakeville, who succeeded his wife, Kiki Orrall, who had given up the seat to run unsuccessfully for state treasurer; Alyson Sullivan of Abington, who won the seat vacated by Geoff Diehl, who walked away from the legislature to try to oust Senator Elizabeth Warren; and Michael Soter of Bellingham, a sales manager in the food industry, who replaced fellow Republican Kevin Kuros, who ran unsuccessfully for Worcester County register of deeds. 

Aside: Kuros lost the Republican primary for register of deeds to Rep. Kate Campanale, who then lost the final to first-time political candidate Kathryn Toomey, a Democrat, a real estate attorney and a daughter of the late Judge Daniel F. Toomey of the Worcester Superior Court.  Register of deeds pays $129,000 a year, which may explain why two reps were willing to give up their jobs on Beacon Hill to quest for it.  Such plums do not often become attainable but Anthony J. Vigliotti, the incumbent register who had the job for 46 years, made it so by retiring.

I can become fascinated by a close look at any collection of 30 human beings.  And that is especially so when the subset is composed entirely of public servants, those hearty souls who have submitted themselves to the judgment of their peers at the ballot box and been found sufficient.

Thus did I have much fun combing through and ruminating upon the backgrounds of the (mostly) new senators and reps, as compiled by the legislative tracking service we have used for years, MassTrac.

I found, for example, that Barry Finegold and Senator Jo Comerford of Florence, way out in the Berkshires, both graduated from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Comerford is a member of the Franklin and Marshall Class of 1985.  She has worked as a campaign director for Move-On, a progressive public policy advocacy group and political action committee, and as an adjunct professor at Smith College.  (Move-On's big in the campaign to make Senator Warren the next president of the United States.)  Finegold, an attorney with service in both the House (1997-2010) and Senate, graduated from Franklin and Marshall in 1993 (and from the Massachusetts College of Law in 1998).

Franklin and Marshall had never registered on my consciousness, which tells you more about my lack of knowledge than the standing of this institution.  Looking online, I found that Franklin and Marshall is a gem of a liberal arts college that's been around since 1787. It's as old as our country!

Franklin and Marshall alumni include the late Bowie Kuhn, once commissioner of baseball; Ken Duberstein, who was chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan in 1988 and 1989; and actors Roy Scheider of "Jaws" fame and Richard Treat Williams of "Once Upon a Time in America" fame.  (How do you not love a guy named Treat?)

Aside: Richard Treat Williams is descended, on his mother's side, from Robert Treat Paine, a Massachusetts Bay Colony clergyman, lawyer and signatory to the Declaration of Independence.)

Speaking of colleges, I found that Senator DiZoglio (Class of 2010) and two of the new reps, Lindsay Sabadosa of Northampton (Class of 2002) and Liz Miranda of Boston (Class of 2002) are all graduates of Wellesley, and that two other new reps, Maria Robinson of Framingham (Class of 2009) and Nika Elugardo of Boston (Class of 1995), are graduates of MIT.

I even found one Harvard grad in the bunch, Rep. David LeBoeuf of Worcester (Class of 2013), an associate at Urban Business Initiatives. (LeBoeuf replaces former rep Campanale.)

The new legislators include six attorneys: the aforementioned Finegold; Senator Becca Rausch of Needham, a Democrat who defeated a longtime Republican incumbent, Richard Ross, in the Norfolk, Bristol & Middlesex District; Rep. Chris Hendricks of New Bedford, who defeated longtime incumbent Robert Koczera; Rep. Tran Nguyen of Andover, a Democrat who beat one of the most conservative members of the legislature, Republican Jim Lyons; Rep. Dan Carey of Easthampton, who won the 2nd Hampshire District seat vacated by the retiring John Scibak; Rep. David Biele of South Boston, who won the seat left open by Nick Collins when he was elected to the Senate (replacing Linda Dorcena Forry); and Rep. Niki Elugardo of Boston, who defeated incumbent Jeff Sanchez, the House Ways & Means chair, in a major upset.

Aside: Lyons wasn't out of work for long.  In January, he won a contested election for chair of the state Republican Party, where, it is predicted, he will inevitably become a pebble in the sneaker of Governor Charlie Baker, the ultimate centrist.

I found some other, dare I say more interesting occupations in this group.  Rep. Patrick Kearney of Scituate, for example, is a charter fishing boat captain; Rep. Peter Capano of Lynn, is an employee of the big General Electric plant in his hometown and served as president of Local 201 of the IUE/CWA, the union formally known as the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried Machinists and Furniture Workers/Communication Workers of America; Senator Ed Kennedy of Lowell is a commercial real estate appraiser; and Framingham's Rep Robinson is the director of wholesale markets for Advanced Energy Economy.

There are also three doctors in this group.  Rep. Tommy Vitolo of Brookline has a Ph.D. in systems engineering from Boston University and works as a senior associate at Synapse Energy Economics.  Rep. Jon Santiago is a graduate of the Yale University School of Medicine and is employed as  an emergency room physician at Boston Medical Center.  Rep. Tami Gouveia of Acton earned a Ph.D. in public health at Boston University and is the project director at ReThink Health.  [Note: I am not counting the lawyers with juris doctor degrees in this category.]

Santiago is one of the three in this batch of legislative newbies who has military experience:  he is a captain in the Army Reserve.  The others are Capano, who served in the Army, and Kearney, a graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and Navy veteran.

Two of the new reps have backgrounds as Congressional aides.  Rep. Natalie Blais of Sunderland has served on the staffs of former Massachusetts Congressman John Olver and current Congressman Jim McGovern.  Rep. Mindy Domb of Amherst worked for the late Ted Weiss, who represented a west side Manhattan district in the U.S. House (1977-92).

Not surprisingly, many, many of the new legislators have served or are serving in local government.

Senator Kennedy, for example, was a member of the Lowell City Council before capturing the position formerly held by Lowell City Manager Eileen Donoghue; Rep. Richard Haggerty of Woburn was most recently the president of the Woburn City Council; Rep. Soter was chair of the Bellingham Board of Selectmen; Rep. Carey was an Easthampton city councilor; Rep. Michelle Ciccolo was a member of the Lexington Select Board; and Rep. Orrall served as Lakeville Town Moderator.

I'll wrap up with some of the achievements by these folks that merit inclusion in the category of Interesting Facts About Your Legislators, if such a thing existed:

Rep. David Robertson of Tewksbury is an Eagle Scout; Senator Kennedy is a member of both the Sierra Club and the Appalachian Mountain Club; Rep. Orrall is the owner/operator of Norm's Natural Farm in Lakeville; and Rep. Sabadosa has a master's degree in translation studies from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

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