<p>LOWELL — White supremacist ideology was the last thought on Allison Vollmar’s mind when she scanned a QR code off a sticker pasted to a railing along Lowell’s Riverwalk.</p><p>“I scanned it, and it went to a Patriot Front website,” Vollmar said by phone on Friday. “I thought, ‘Oh, geez, this isn’t good.’ So, I just kind of scraped it off with my fingernails.”</p><p>She found several more during her walk.</p><p>According to the Anti-Defamation League, Patriot Front is a Texas-based “white supremacist group whose members… define themselves as American fascists or American nationalists who are focused on preserving America’s identity as a European-American nation.”</p><p>The group formed in the aftermath of the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, during which protestor James Alex Fields plowed his car into a group of counterprotesters and killed Heather Heyer.</p><p>Then-President Donald Trump gave a speech describing the violence that followed the tiki-torch carrying white nationalists holding antisemitic signs, as "…very fine people, on both sides."</p><p>This reconstituted version of homegrown fascism marched through Downtown Boston last summer carrying riot shields and banners reading “Reclaim America” and “Strong Families Make Strong Nations,” and Patriot Front flags.</p><p>Vollmar knew all that backstory, but she chalked the stickers up to a one-off issue. That is, until on Labor Day weekend, when she found a swastika drawn on the elevator panel in the lobby of the Downes Garage on French and John streets in Lowell's National Historical Park.</p><p>The swastikas were scrawled in permanent marker on elevator panels on several floors, said Vollmar, and they looked freshly made.</p><p>“We want to chalk it up to knuckleheads, but we all need to be looking out for this sort of thing,” she said. “I snapped a picture on my phone of the swastikas, and sent it to Wayne Jenness over social media.”</p><p>Jenness, a city councilor in District 4, who represents the residents in Downtown Lowell, among other neighborhoods, immediately reached out to City Manager Tom Golden’s team.</p><p>“I texted Tom (Golden) and Shawn (Assistant City Manager Machado) at 12:22 p.m., about it,” Jenness said by text on Friday. “Shawn texted me at 6:45 p.m., that it had been removed… I would just say that I was very thankful that she reported it to me, and very appreciative of the quick action from the administration and specifically DPW employees for coming in on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of a long weekend to remove it.”</p><p>A few days after the Downes Garage vandalism, U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan issued a statement, after a group of neo-Nazis, identified as part of the Nationalist Social Club, or NSC-131, attempted to intimidate refugees in a Marlboro hotel over the weekend.</p><p>On Aug. 8, Gov. Maura Healey announced a state of emergency due to the rapidly rising number of migrant families in need of shelter and services. The administration of UMass Lowell confirmed that its 252-room Inn & Conference Center on Warren Street in Downtown Lowell was closing Sept. 13, fueling speculation that it is a possible housing site for migrants fleeing unrest and violence.</p><p>“The United States is a nation built by immigrants from all over the world, and Massachusetts has benefitted mightily from the contributions of refugees and immigrants for generations,” Trahan said. “We’re not going to stand idly by while a bunch of neo-Nazi bullies try to intimidate refugees who legally came to this nation in search of a better life for their families.”</p><p>NSC-131, a New England neo-Nazi organization, is led by <a href="https://www.lowellsun.com/2023/01/17/mass-hate-group-leader-subject-of-n-h-civil-rights-complaint/">Christopher Hood</a>, formerly of Pepperell, who was the subject of a January civil rights complaint by the New Hampshire attorney general. At a July 2022 protest, Hood led a group of NSC-131 members in hanging banners that read “Keep New England White” from an overpass overlooking U.S. Route 1 in Portsmouth. A superior court judge dismissed the civil rights case in June, however, citing free speech protections, but the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office is appealing that ruling, WMUR reported.</p><p>Hate groups may not be new to the commonwealth, but symbols of their ideology in the Mill City are, said Vollmar, who said she has “never seen anything like this before in Lowell.”</p><p>If these specific acts of white supremacist vandalism and propaganda are "testing the waters" in Lowell, the perpetrators will not find a warm welcome, said Golden.</p><p>"Upon learning about this cowardly and vile act – Our DPW removed it on Sunday within hours,” he said by text on Friday. “Hate has not and never will be tolerated in Lowell.”</p><p>Trahan’s statement also closed with an affirmation of American values that embraces diversity and acceptance.</p><p>“The beliefs and actions of this hate group go against every value we hold dear as Americans and as citizens of Massachusetts,” she said. “I join thousands of folks in Marlborough and across the Commonwealth in saying clearly and unequivocally that hate has no place here.”</p><p>It was the message Trahan delivered in person to a group of LGBTQ+ leaders during a roundtable discussion in June during Pride Month. Anthony Bovenzi, president NoWoCo Pride, a Fitchburg-based LGBTQ+ group for North Worcester County and beyond, spoke to the challenges Pride events face from white supremacist groups.</p><p>“Massachusetts is great on many fronts, but Massachusetts is also the biggest safe haven for White supremacist groups, and they are constantly threatening our Pride,” he told Trahan. “Right now, I’m receiving 10 death threats a week from white supremacist groups all over the Northeast including, Massachusetts.”</p><p>He noted that five of the groups are based in Fitchburg alone, with Proud Boys active in Brookfield and Spencer.</p><p>For her part, Vollmar is glad she elevated her concerns and grateful for the city’s quick response.</p><p>“I’m probably going to be extra vigilant as I walk around, and be aware of what’s around me,” she said.</p>
A Boston lawyer who was one of the final names being considered for the U.S. Attorney role in Massachusetts, before Rachael Rollins was ultimately picked and later resigned in disgrace, has been appointed as the top prosecutor at The Hague for the Kosovo war crimes tribunal.
Kim West, a partner at Ashcroft Law Firm in Boston, was recently selected as the Specialist Prosecutor at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office in The Hague, Netherlands.
West was one of the high-profile local lawyers who were being looked at as the replacement for Andrew Lelling to lead the Bay State U.S. Attorney’s Office. Rollins, the Suffolk County district attorney at the time, was later picked as U.S. Attorney — and she recently resigned following bombshell investigative reports from two federal watchdog agencies.
Instead of the experienced and accomplished West running the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s Office, she’s now heading to the European Union-backed court.
“I am extremely grateful to the European Union for selecting me for this position,” West said in a statement. “My colleagues at Ashcroft Law Firm know that my passion has long been centered around international investigations. They recognized that this is an opportunity of a lifetime, and have all been very supportive.
“This new role allows me to continue working with victims, witnesses, and the international community to ensure that perpetrators of war crimes are brought to justice,” West added.
She began her legal career as assistant district attorney in Plymouth County. Then after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, she joined the Anti-Terrorism and National Security Unit at the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Later, she served for five years as a trial attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, where she prosecuted Radovan Karadzic — who was found guilty of directing the genocide of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslims in the worst massacre on European soil since the Holocaust.
Then as chief of the Criminal Bureau for the Attorney General’s Office in Massachusetts, West supervised a team of more than 120 professionals responsible for investigating and prosecuting a range of financial, fraud, public corruption, narcotics, gaming, human trafficking, and other offenses.
West at Ashcroft Law Firm has focused on white-collar cases, primarily representing international clients.
“We are immensely proud of her achievements and grateful for the contributions she has made to our firm,” said Michael Sullivan, managing partner of Ashcroft Law Firm’s Boston office. “People from around the world have sought her help because of her empathy and commitment to international justice and accountability. Those same characteristics will guide her in her new position.”
Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, the firm’s founder and chairman, said of West, “Her appointment to the European Union-backed court is not at all surprising because her career has been defined by a dedication to justice on a global scale. We are sad to be losing Kim as our colleague, but by selecting her for this key position, the international community has chosen the ideal steward to oversee the important responsibilities of investigating war crimes in Kosovo.”
A lead organizer of Boston’s “Straight Pride Parade” is now facing a felony charge for his alleged participation in the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, prosecutors announced.
Mark Sahady, 48, of Malden, was indicted by a federal grand jury this week for obstruction of an official proceeding, for allegedly disrupting a joint session of the U.S. Congress “convened to ascertain and count the electoral votes related to the presidential election,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Columbia said.
He had previously been facing lesser charges of entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly conduct in a Capitol building; and parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.
The indictment, filed Wednesday, carries the new felony charge, upping his potential prison time, if convicted, from six months to a year for each of the other criminal offenses, to up to 20 years for the new obstruction charge.
Sahady is alleged to have posted several messages on social media prior to the breach of the U.S. Capitol, calling for “millions of Americans” to “show up in DC on January 6 to support the legitimate president, Donald Trump, and show Democrats what they will be facing if they continue to try and steal the presidency,” according to court documents.
He further tweeted about transportation, in response to an inquiry, stating that seven buses were coming to take participants to the Capitol. Two days prior to the Jan. 6 breach, Sahady allegedly tweeted simply, “January 6 — Washington, DC — It begins,” according to court documents.
Sahady, identified as vice president of “Super Happy Fun America,” a group that allegedly purports to advocate for the “straight community” and gained notoriety for organizing the 2019 “Straight Pride Parade” in Boston, was also photographed among a group of protesters inside the Capitol building, court papers stated.
He was identified as the person in this photo after it was posted by private individuals and the media, and appeared on a number of public forums and social media accounts, including Twitter.
The identification was also reported by the MetroWest Daily News on Jan. 11, 2021, placing Sahady and another woman he was allegedly traveling with inside the Capitol building during the deadly riot, court documents stated.
The woman, Suzanne Ianni, is a former elected Town Meeting member from Natick, who pleaded guilty last September to storming the U.S. Capitol after organizing a bus trip to Washington, D.C. for herself, Sahady and fellow members of Super Happy Fun America, the Associated Press reported.
Sahady and Ianni were among those appearing in a photograph posted to the right-wing group’s Twitter page, “SuperHappyFunAmerica,” on the evening of Jan. 5, which was shared in court documents, with the caption, “Bus 1 of 11 coming to Washington DC. See you there!”
More than 1,000 people have been arrested in nearly all 50 states “for crimes related to the breach of the U.S. Capitol, including more than 320 individuals charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
By MICHELLE L. PRICE, JILL COLVIN and ERIC TUCKER (Associated Press)
NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump claimed on Saturday that his arrest is imminent and issued an extraordinary call for his supporters to protest as a New York grand jury investigates hush money payments to women who alleged sexual encounters with the former president.
Even as Trump’s lawyer and spokesperson said there had been no communication from prosecutors, Trump declared in a post on his social media platform that he expects to be taken into custody on Tuesday.
His message seemed designed to preempt a formal announcement from prosecutors and to galvanize outrage from his base of supporters in advance of widely anticipated charges. Within hours, his campaign was sending fundraising solicitations to his supporters, while influential Republicans in Congress and even some declared and potential rival candidates issued statements in his defense.
In a later post that went beyond simply exhorting loyalists to protest about his legal peril, the 2024 presidential candidate directed his overarching ire in all capital letters at the Biden administration and raised the prospect of civil unrest: “IT’S TIME!!!” he wrote. “WE JUST CAN’T ALLOW THIS ANYMORE. THEY’RE KILLING OUR NATION AS WE SIT BACK & WATCH. WE MUST SAVE AMERICA!PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!!”
It all evoked, in foreboding ways, the rhetoric he used shortly before the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. After hearing from the then-president at a Washington rally that morning, his supporters marched to the Capitol and tried to stop the congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s White House victory, breaking through doors and windows of the building and leaving officers beaten and bloodied.
District Attorney Alvin Bragg is thought to be eyeing charges in the hush money investigation, and recently offered Trump a chance to testify before the grand jury. Local law enforcement officials are bracing for the public safety ramifications of an unprecedented prosecution of a former American president.
In an internal email following Trump’s statements, Bragg said law enforcement would ensure that the 1,600 people who work in his office would remain safe, and that “any specific or credible threats” would be investigated.
“We do not tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York,” he wrote, and added: “In the meantime, as with all of our investigations, we will continue to apply the law evenly and fairly, and speak publicly only when appropriate.”
There has been no public announcement of any time frame for the grand jury’s secret work in the case. At least one additional witness is expected to testify, further indicating that no vote to indict has yet been taken, according to a person familiar with the investigation who was not authorized to publicly discuss the case and spoke on condition of anonymity.
That did not stop Trump from taking to his social media platform to say “illegal leaks” from Bragg’s office indicate that “THE FAR & AWAY LEADING REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE & FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, WILL BE ARRESTED ON TUESDAY OF NEXT WEEK.”
A Trump lawyer, Susan Necheles, said Trump’s post was “based on the media reports,” and a spokesperson said there had been “no notification” from Bragg’s office, though the origin of Trump’s Tuesday reference was unclear. The district attorney’s office declined to comment.
Trump’s aides and legal team have been preparing for the possibility of an indictment. Should that happen, he would be arrested only if he refused to surrender. Trump’s lawyers have previously said he would follow normal procedure, meaning he would likely agree to surrender at a New York Police Department precinct or directly to Bragg’s office.
It is unclear whether Trump’s supporters would heed his protest call or if he retains the same persuasive power he held as president. Trump’s posts on Truth Social generally receive far less attention than he used to get on Twitter, but he maintains a deeply loyal base. The aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot, in which hundreds of Trump loyalists were arrested and prosecuted in federal court, may also have dampened the passion among supporters for confrontation.
The indictment of Trump, 76, would be an extraordinary development after years of investigations into his business, political and personal dealings.
Even as Trump pursues his latest White House campaign — his first rally is set for Waco, Texas, later this month and he shook hands and took selfies with fans during a public appearance Saturday evening at the NCAA Division I wrestling championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma — there is no question an indictment would be a distraction and give fodder to opponents and critics tired of the legal scandals that have long enveloped him.
Besides the hush money inquiry in New York, Trump faces separate criminal investigations in Atlanta and Washington over his efforts to undo the results of the 2020 election.
A Justice Department special counsel has also been presenting evidence before a grand jury investigating Trump’s possession of hundreds of classified documents at his Florida estate. It is not clear when those investigations will end or whether they might result in criminal charges, but they will continue regardless of what happens in New York, underscoring the ongoing gravity – and broad geographic scope – of the legal challenges facing the former president.
Trump’s post Saturday echoes one made last summer when he broke the news on Truth Social that the FBI was searching his Florida home as part of an investigation into the possible mishandling of classified documents.
News of that search sparked a flood of contributions to Trump’s political operation, and on Saturday, Trump sent out a series of fundraising emails to his supporters, including one that claimed, “I’m not worried in the slightest.”
After his post, Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy decried any plans to prosecute Trump as an “outrageous abuse of power by a radical DA” whom he claimed was pursuing “political vengeance.” Rep. Elise Stefanik, the third-ranking House Republican, issued a statement with a similar sentiment.
The grand jury has been hearing from witnesses, including former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who says he orchestrated payments in 2016 to two women to silence them about sexual encounters they said they had with Trump a decade earlier.
Trump denies the encounters occurred, says he did nothing wrong and has cast the investigation as a “witch hunt” by a Democratic prosecutor bent on sabotaging the Republican’s 2024 campaign. Trump also has labeled Bragg, who is Black, a “racist” and has accused the prosecutor of letting crime in the city run amok while he has focused on Trump. New York remains one of the safest cities in the country.
Bragg’s office has apparently been examining whether any state laws were broken in connection with the payments or the way Trump’s company compensated Cohen for his work to keep the women’s allegations quiet.
Porn actor Stormy Daniels and at least two former Trump aides — onetime political adviser Kellyanne Conway and former spokesperson Hope Hicks — are among witnesses who have met with prosecutors in recent weeks.
Cohen has said that at Trump’s direction, he arranged payments totaling $280,000 to Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal. According to Cohen, the payouts were to buy their silence about Trump, who was then in the thick of his first presidential campaign.
Cohen and federal prosecutors said Trump’s company paid him $420,000 as reimbursement for the $130,000 payment to Daniels and to cover bonuses and other supposed expenses. The company classified those payments internally as legal expenses. The $150,000 payment to McDougal was made by the then-publisher of the supermarket tabloid National Enquirer, which kept her story from coming to light.
Federal prosecutors agreed not to prosecute the Enquirer’s corporate parent in exchange for its cooperation in a campaign finance investigation that led to charges against Cohen in 2018. Prosecutors said the payments to Daniels and McDougal amounted to impermissible, unrecorded gifts to Trump’s election effort.
Cohen pleaded guilty, served prison time and was disbarred. Federal prosecutors never charged Trump with any crime.
News that law enforcement agencies were preparing for a possible indictment was first reported by NBC News.
Tucker reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Colleen Long in Washington, Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina and Sean Murphy in Tulsa, Oklahoma — contributed to this report.
Massachusetts Republicans nearly stuck with party chairman Jim Lyons for another two-year term, despite disastrous election results over his four-year tenure, but instead narrowly decided Tuesday night to give Amy Carnevale a shot at running the shrinking party.
Members of the Republican State Committee voted 37-34 to pick Carnevale as the MassGOP’s next top leader, placing the job of restoring the Grand Old Party’s diminished influence on Beacon Hill and among voters in the hands of a longtime lobbyist and former Capitol Hill staffer.
Republicans needed two rounds of voting to make a final decision after no candidate earned the needed 37 votes on the first ballot, according to POLITICO, a reflection of the tense fight that had played out in the weeks and months leading up to the leadership shuffle.
“Congratulations are in order for the newest chair of the party, Amy @CarnevaleMHD!” the official MassGOP account tweeted Tuesday night. “Best of luck to Amy, a very capable leader, who will work to unite the MassGOP!”
The vote boots Lyons, a former state representative and conservative hard-liner, from the party chair role after a four-year stint during which he repeatedly clashed with popular moderate Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and fellow state committee members.
In that span, the Republican super-minority in the House and Senate shrunk even smaller, the party’s finances fell into disarray, and Democrats seized back the corner office with the election of Gov. Maura Healey, giving them trifecta control atop Beacon Hill.
Carnevale spent a decade working for former U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt, a Washington Republican who entered office in 1995 after unseating House Speaker Tom Foley, eventually as his chief of staff.
Since 2005, she has worked in both state and federal government affairs for K&L Gates, an influential firm, according to her LinkedIn. Baker appointed Carnevale to the Governor’s Commission on Intellectual Disability in 2017.
The Boston Globe reported that Carnevale pitched fellow state committee members Tuesday on rebuilding and professionalizing the party’s operations.
“By every metric, we are failing,” Carnevale said, according to the Globe. “For the sake of the conservative policies we advocate, our remaining officeholders, members of our party, and future candidates, we need a fresh start.”
Like Lyons, who made his vocal and repeated support of former President Donald Trump a central theme of his chairmanship, Carnevale was a backer of the Republican president. She helped campaign for Trump in 2016 and praised him during his time in office.
She condemned the violent Jan. 6, 2021 riots at the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters seeking to overturn President Joe Biden’s election, calling the intrusion “a serious crime” and arguing that Trump “should have made absolutely clear that he was committed to the orderly transfer of power.”
Carnevale criticized Lyons’s approach as chair, telling talk show personality Howie Carr in December that he was “a distraction to Republicans running for office and a hindrance to raising money.”
We now have a clearer sense of what will feature on the to-do list for Gov. Charlie Baker’s remaining seven weeks in office: a final flurry of judicial appointments and clemency recommendations, celebrating the long-delayed and often uncertain completion of the Green Line Extension, and, despite his claimed distaste for national politics, pontification about the Republican Party’s future.
Baker made big news Friday morning when he announced he would move to commute the sentence of Ramadan Shabazz from first-degree murder to second-degree murder and pardon six people, including two convicted in a high-profile 1980s abuse case whose validity has long been disputed.
Gerald “Tooky” Amirault and Cheryl Amirault LeFave were convicted of sexually abusing young children at the Fells Acres Day Care Center they ran, but Baker said he has “grave doubt regarding the evidentiary strength of these convictions,” pointing to other experts and judicial officials who have reached similar conclusions over the years.
Baker’s recommendations — particularly the commutation of Shabazz, which would make the 72-year-old eligible for parole after he was initially sentenced to death and has since spent five decades behind bars — tee up noteworthy business for the Governor’s Council to tackle in the ongoing lame-duck session. His latest announcements also came only a couple of days after Baker tapped Parole Board member Tina Hurley to chair that panel.
Green Line extension launch near
Baker, or at least his team, this week circled another date on the calendar with a major announcement: the second and final leg of the Green Line Extension will launch for riders on Dec. 12.
The opening of the first branch, which featured a rebuilt Lechmere Station and only one new stop at Union Square, drew a day of festivities and victory speeches from Baker, his top deputies and former officials who had a hand in the years-long project.
MBTA and Baker administration higher-ups have not yet indicated the level of fanfare over the start of service on the five-station Medford Branch, but they might see it as a way to draw focus back toward a landmark accomplishment after months of intense scrutiny on the T’s safety failures that spiraled out under their watch.
Baker appears on CNN
And as Baker’s eight years in the corner office draw to a close, the governor has started to turn his attention toward a type of political punditry he has often resisted.
During his two terms, he often found common ground with Democrats and sometimes voiced disagreement with or disapproval for former President Donald Trump, a position that both reflected and accelerated the growing divide between the popular governor and MassGOP Chair Jim Lyons.
But Baker also made a frequent point to stay uninvolved in many political fights. For months leading up to and then in the wake of the election to succeed him, Baker declined to endorse either Republican challenger Geoff Diehl or eventual winner Maura Healey, nor any statewide candidate besides Republican auditor hopeful Anthony Amore. When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis flew dozens of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard — an action that prompted a class action lawsuit and an investigation by a Texas sheriff — Baker displayed little interest in publicly criticizing a fellow Republican governor.
Baker apparently decided he had a lot more to say after the dust settled on last week’s elections, when Republicans won back a narrow U.S. House majority but failed to flip the Senate or capitalize on a midterm position that historically favors whichever party does not hold the White House.
The governor sought out the spotlight by inviting CNN to his State House office for an election post-mortem, waxing about how he believes Trump’s influence “probably hurt the (Republican) party and hurt the party’s chances on Election Day.”
“One of the messages from the election is, for Republicans generally, is we need, we need as a party to move past President Trump and to move on to an agenda that represents the voices of all those in the party and the people of the country,” Baker told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
It’s worth noting that Baker chose to deliver his assessment nearly a year after the widely popular governor opted not to seek a third term, during which he might have used his platform to try and push the party in the direction he desired. In his own assessment, what’s next for Baker once he hands over the corner office will be a trip “some place far” and first-time grandparenting, but his comments suggest he’s got more in the tank.
Baker for president
Baker stopped short of ruling out a run for some kind of position down the line, but not in 2024, in an interview with WCVB’s “On The Record” set to air Sunday morning.
“If I was looking at this point in my career to continue to engage in public service, I think (my wife) Lauren and I and Karyn Polito, the lieutenant governor, and her husband, Steve, would have run for another term,” he said. “I certainly plan to be involved in 2024, but I think the likelihood I’d be on the ballot in 2024 is pretty small.”
“I think anybody in public life never slams anything completely (shut), but I’m not going to be a candidate in 2024, period,” Baker replied when hosts Ed Harding and Janet Wu observed that Baker’s name has been floated among some pundits on the national stage this week. After a beat, he added, “If I don’t say that, my wife will be very unhappy with me.”
Wu pressed the governor on whether he would ever be a candidate for public office again.
“I’m not going to rule out ever running for anything,” Baker said.
To which we have to add: “I am not, nor will I ever be — OK? My wife is standing right back there and she will be the first to vouch — a candidate for national office.” That’s a Baker quote from July 2015.
Baker’s not alone on the national stage
Baker was not the only Massachusetts politician to claim a place on the national stage this week. Congresswoman Katherine Clark, who has served as a top deputy to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, announced she would run for the number-two position in the chamber’s Democrat caucus with Pelosi preparing to step back from leadership.
While Clark seeks her own path in the next Congress, the state’s all-Democrat House delegation must prepare for a different dynamic starting in January when they become members of the minority party. That’ll be a shift from the current set-up, which features Congressman Richard Neal as chair of the House Ways and Means Committee and Congressman James McGovern as chair of the House Rules Committee.
There’s no guarantee that they reclaim those influential positions if Democrats win back a House majority in 2024 or beyond, especially with new leadership inbound, though a Clark elevation certainly could help the delegation’s chances of controlling some levers of power. If it appears that Republicans will hold on to the House in 2024, that could also factor into the reelection plans of senior Massachusetts U.S. House members.
House Republicans in search of speaker?
GOP lawmakers, meanwhile, face leadership decisions of their own. House Republicans reportedly chose current Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy as their next top leader, but it’s unclear whether McCarthy has the votes lined up to become speaker. He would need an outright majority in the House, and the narrow majority Republicans are forecast to wield could make any intraparty dissent particularly impactful.
Some high-ranking Republicans signaled Thursday their priorities next term will be investigating President Joe Biden and his family, according to CNN. Meanwhile, Attorney General Merrick Garland — a Biden appointee — on Friday named former Justice Department official Jack Smith as special counsel to investigate Trump’s handling of government documents and his involvement in events leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The balance of power in Massachusetts remains strongly weighted for Democrats, though party bosses are still waiting more than a week after the election to find out the final Democrat-Republican breakdown in the House and voters in two districts still do not know who their next representative will be.
Recounts still pending
The race between Republican Rep. Leonard Mirra and Democrat challenger Kristin Kassner to represent Georgetown, Hamilton, Ipswich, Newbury, Rowley and part of Topsfield remains undecided, as does the contest between Democrat Margaret Scarsdale and Republican Andrew Shepherd to represent Ashby, Dunstable, Pepperell, Townsend and parts of Groton and Lunenburg.
Both contests appear headed for recounts with only a handful of votes separating the candidates. How those play out will determine whether Democrats pick up three, four or five House seats over the margins they had to begin the 2021-2022 lawmaking session.
LOOSE ENDS: Gov.-elect Maura Healey and Lt. Gov.-elect Kim Driscoll named Danielle Cerny as their transition director and convened policy committees that will focus on housing, transportation, climate and energy, jobs and the economy, youth and young adults, and safe and healthy communities … A new report concluded that telehealth is “here to stay” but warned that its usage remained uneven across different demographic groups … Fare evasion fines are returning to the MBTA after more than a year without enforcement, though arrests and driver’s license impacts will no longer be deployed.
STORY OF THE WEEK: Whether playing out quietly in private committee meetings or broadcast on national news, transitions and a reckoning with what comes next are underway across state government.
SONG OF THE WEEK: A very rough paraphrase of Baker’s message to other Republicans who continued to embrace Trump into last week’s elections: I’m watching you all, I’m seeing you sinking.