Weymouth Mayor-elect Robert Hedlund’s resistance to officially setting a date for his resignation from his long-held state Senate seat could cost state taxpayers about $130,000 for a special election to fill the position — not to mention more than $50,000 he will have to find in the city budget to provide its share of the cost.
The reason for the extra costs is rooted in electoral politics. Hedlund and his fellow Republicans worry that the Democrats are looking for an advantage in the battle over the Senate seat he has occupied for 12 terms.
It began with Hedlund’s election as mayor last month. And it blew up this week with his refusal to submit a letter to the Senate announcing his resignation as of Jan. 4 when he takes office. That letter would have allowed the Senate to officially set the date of the election to fill the seat.
To Secretary of State William F. Galvin, the state’s chief election officer, Hedlund’s letter was critical to avoiding the normal cost of a special election. He wanted to hold the special election at the same time as the state’s March 1 presidential primary. He would have needed Hedlnund’s letter by Tuesday for that to work.
Now with Senator Anthony Petruccelli’s announcement last Friday that he too is resigning, Galvin faces the prospect of running two special elections this spring. Unlike Hedlund, Petruccelli, whose district is heavily Democratic, has not yet settled on a date for his resignation.
If Galvin had his way, the two seats would remain vacant for the rest of the legislative session, thus avoiding costly special elections. If the Senate insists on special election for Hedlund’s seat, the schedule — for both the primary and general election — could put the final balloting close to summer. (The towns in Hedlund’s district will be holding local elections through the spring, allowing no time to wedge in a special Senate election until well into June.)
Galvin says it would be cost-effective to leave the seats vacant and let voters fill them in the regular electoral cycle next fall. He noted that there will be little work for new senators because the House and Senate will likely end their session for the year in mid-July.
Hedlund, who was under pressure from Galvin and Senate leaders, said he is merely following “precedent’’ in how other Senate vacancies have been filled, although he could not be specific.
But he is also suspicious that the Democrats want to hold the Senate election on the same day as the presidential primary because more Democratic voters will turn out.
“I want an even playing field for any one who has an interest running for the position,’’ Hedlund said. His legislative aide Patrick O’Connor is expected to be the GOP nominee.
Frank Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.