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Governor Baker among leaders demanding delay in choosing replacement, mourning Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Local politicians reacted to the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Local politicians reacted to the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post

Massachusetts leaders from across the political spectrum mourned the death of iconic Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with many — including popular Republican Governor Charlie Baker — urging that her dying wish be respected and a successor not be chosen until after the November presidential election.

Ginsburg, who died Friday at age 87 of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer, served for decades as a champion of gender equality on the nation’s highest court. Her death leaves a crucial vacancy on the Supreme Court, and President Trump told Republicans Saturday they must move forward with picking her successor.

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“We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices,” Trump said on Twitter. “We have this obligation, without delay!”

But many in Massachusetts political leadership criticized any effort to push the appointment of a Supreme Court justice before ballots are counted in the upcoming election.

“As we mourn the tremendous loss of her passing, one thing is clear: we must honor Justice Ginsburg’s last wish and ensure that no replacement is appointed until a new president is installed in January,” US Representative Ayanna Pressley said in a statement.

Pressley, who also referenced Ginsburg’s popular nickname — the Notorious RBG — in her statement, said: “Any attempt by the GOP to push through a rushed appointment process when we are weeks away from a Presidential election would be a calloused affront to her notorious legacy.”

Ginsburg reportedly did not want her successor chosen until after the November presidential election. She dictated a statement to her granddaughter just days before her death that made her wishes known, according to NPR reporter Nina Totenberg Friday.

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“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” Ginsburg said, according to NPR.

But in the hours following her death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, declared that the Senate would take up the matter, even with the election looming. The position stood in contrast to McConnell’s 2016 refusal to consider Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court.

Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate. But not all Republicans agree with an effort to name a new justice immediately — including Baker.

The governor, in a statement, called on Trump and party leaders to hold off on another Supreme Court pick.

“The passing of Justice Ginsburg is not only a loss for the court but for the entire nation, and I urge President Trump and the US Senate to allow the American people to cast their ballots for President before a new justice is nominated or confirmed,” Baker said in the statement.

“The Supreme Court is too important to rush and must be removed from partisan political infighting,” Baker said.

For many Massachusetts Democrats, including US Senator Elizabeth Warren, messages commemorating Ginsburg’s decades of work as a champion for gender equality under the law were paired with urgent calls for political action.

"With voting already underway for the 2020 elections, Ruthie’s ‘most fervent wish' was for her replacement not to be named 'until a new president is installed,’ " Warren said. “We must honor her wish.”

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Warren, said she will be “forever grateful” for Ginsburg’s example not only for herself but for millions of young women who see the late Supreme Court justice as a role model.

“Her lifelong dedication to fighting for justice for everyone, and her love for our nation, will be sorely missed,” Warren said.

Warren’s fellow senator, Edward Markey, said in a statement that if Republicans fill the Supreme Court seat that was held by Ginsburg, Democrats should take legislative action in response.

“Mitch McConnell set the precedent. No Supreme Court vacancies filled in an election year,” Markey said. “If he violates it, when Democrats control the Senate in the next Congress, we must abolish the filibuster and expand the Supreme Court.”

Every member of the state’s congressional delegation released statements that mourned Ginsburg’s death and honored her longtime career as a jurist.

Some went further, declaring that choosing a successor should wait.

“Justice Ginsburg always worked for fairness, and the American people deserve the opportunity to select our next president before a new justice is appointed,” US Representative Katherine Clark said in a statement.

Other Democrats, like Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, offered their condolences. Walsh called her a brilliant jurist and a fearless trailblazer.

“A tireless champion of justice & equality who exemplified grace & strength. She made this country a better place for all,” Walsh said in a statement.

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Karen Spilka, the state Senate president, said Ginsburg’s fighting spirit inspired her and generations of women and girls everywhere.

“She taught us to stand tall, raise our voices, and never to give up. Her legacy now lives on in all of us,” Spilka said.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said the loss of Ginsburg is devastating: “For so many Americans, she was their freedom personified.”

Healey, in her statement late Friday night, also sounded a call to action.

“May her memory be a blessing, tomorrow we fight in her honor,” Healey said.


John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.