Even as his home city reacts to state Representative Stephen “Stat” Smith’s sudden departure from office amid federal voter-fraud charges, a free-for-all is emerging among aspirants to replace the Everett Democrat on Beacon Hill.
At least seven people have jumped into the special election race to fill the 28th Middlesex District seat, with other potential candidates weighing runs. The newly redrawn district consists of Everett; it previously also included part of Malden.
The seven contenders who said they will run for the seat are former mayor John Hanlon; Joseph F. Hickey, the city’s veterans services director; Aldermen Michael Mangan and Michael K. Marchese; Common Council members Sergio Cornelio and Wayne A. Matewsky; and School Committee member Joseph A. Lamonica. All are Democrats except Lamonica, who is unenrolled.
The secretary of state’s office announced Wednesday that party primaries for Smith’s House seat will be held on March 5, and the special election is set for April 2. The deadline for candidates to file nomination papers is Jan. 22.
Smith, who was reelected to a fourth term in November, agreed to plead guilty in federal court to two misdemeanor counts of deprivation of rights under color of law, and to resign his position effective last Tuesday, the office of US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz announced Dec. 20. As part of the agreement, Smith, 57, cannot seek office for five years from his sentencing date, which had not been set as of last week.
According to Seth Gitell, spokesman for House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Smith formally resigned his seat in a letter that was received by the House clerk and the secretary of state on Monday.
According to prosecutors, Smith is alleged to have submitted fraudulent absentee ballot applications in 2009, when he was reelected to the Everett School Committee, and also in 2010, when he was reelected to the House of Representatives. He did not seek reelection to the School Committee in 2011.
“Smith was able to obtain many of the absentee ballots and cause them to be delivered to the ineligible voters, who would then cast votes despite lacking any eligibility to do so, or Smith would cast the ballots himself,” according to the information document filed by prosecutors.
Smith, who declined to comment last week, faces up to a year in jail on each count, a year of supervised release, and a maximum $100,000 fine, according to the plea agreement. It said prosecutors have recommended a six-month sentence, a year of supervised release, and a fine to be determined by the court.
The special election to fill his seat promises to add to what is already shaping up as an eventful year in Everett politics, as the city awaits a potential plan for a casino and prepares for its first election under a new form of government, with its bicameral City Council being replaced by a single body next fall.
One of the city’s most enduring public figures, Hanlon said that if elected he would bring his extensive local government experience to the State House.
In addition to his two terms as mayor, from 2004 to 2008, Hanlon served as an alderman for 22 years, and as the Everett city clerk for 18 years. He lost a Democratic primary challenge to Smith in 2010.
“Who else has been an alderman, a city clerk, and a mayor?” Hanlon said, also citing his two years of service on the commission that wrote the new city charter.
Hickey, a two-tour Vietnam combat veteran, has been director of the city’s Department of Veterans Services since 2008. He was elected four times previously to the Common Council in Ward 4, leaving during his final term to accept his current job. “What I bring is my long line of service not only to my country but to my community. I’ve been involved in public service for over 40 years,” said Hickey, who also served on the charter commission and is a former chairman of the Planning Board.
Lamonica, in his second term on the School Committee, is an active community volunteer who is vice president of the Crimson Tide Pop Warner youth football organization. He works as manager and pharmacy technician at his family’s drug store in Georgetown.
“I work well with the mayor; I work well with the School Committee. I see it as an opportunity to bring both sides together,” Lamonica said. “I just feel I can bring an honest representation to the city.’’
Mangan, in his second term as Ward 2 alderman, previously served a term as a Ward 1 common councilor. A train operator on the MBTA’s Red Line and a member of the Boston Carmen’s Union, he previously served as the labor representative on the Everett Housing Authority.
Mangan, a youth basketball and Pop Warner coach, said he would offer his “experience as an elected official and my involvement in the community.”
Marchese, who recently switched his political affiliation on the voting rolls from unenrolled to Democrat, has been Ward 3 alderman for the past 18 years, except for a two-year hiatus after he ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2003. He lost bids for the local House seat as a Democrat in 1990 and 1998.
Marchese said he offers both political experience and a private-sector background; he owns and manages properties. “I’ve worked in the private sector all my life, so I think I bring a different perspective to how things are done.”
Cornelio, in his third term as a Ward 1 common councilor and the council’s president last year, is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business while helping manage his family’s restaurant.
Cornelio, 27, said he would bring his “youth and energy” to the House position, and also would draw upon his experience on the council.
Matewsky has been a Ward 1 common councilor since 1981, except for two years after he lost a 2007 bid for alderman. He unsuccessfully opposed Smith in the 2008 Democratic primary, but for the last 19 months has served as Smith’s chief of staff for the district. He worked in the past as a bricklayer and remains a member of that trade’s union. He holds the labor seat on the Housing Authority.
“I have the knowledge and the experience at the State House and in the city of Everett to represent the people of the community,” he said.
The field of candidates may grow, with two Democrats on the Common Council expressing some interest.
Michael J. McLaughlin, in his first term representing Ward 6 and an overnight freight team associate for Home Depot in Everett, said he is seriously considering entering the race.
John “Leo” McKinnon, a retired state correctional officer in his sixth term representing Ward 4, said he has not ruled out a run.
John Laidler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.