BOSTON — Members of a local Democratic committee are calling on House Speaker Ron Mariano to seat Kristin Kassner in the 2nd Essex district, calling the delay in swearing her into office a "blow to democracy." 

Kassner, a South Hamilton Democrat, won a recount by only one vote against incumbent Rep. Lenny Mirra, R-Georgetown, the outcome of which was affirmed by several court rulings. But Mariano postponed her swearing-in on Wednesday, pending the results of a "thorough" legislative review of the race and recount. 

A House panel reviewing the election results recommended Mirra continue to represent the district until a final determination is made about the race's winner. The House voted to accept the report.

In a letter to Mariano on Friday, members of the Georgetown Democratic Town Committee said allowing Mirra to remain in the seat during the review "despite the outcome of the recount and judgment of the courts" draws the accountability of the state's election system into question.

"Do we give in to threats of litigation, or do we stand up for the law?" they wrote in the letter, which was signed by Committee Chair Bob Watts. "Massachusetts is supposed to be the beacon of free and fair elections; caving in like this means no election is safe, anywhere."

The Democrats argue that Mirra is not an incumbent because only two of the towns in the newly reconfigured 2nd Essex district — Georgetown and Newbury — were part of the House district he was re-elected to two years ago.

"The other four towns: Ipswich, Rowley, Hamilton and half of Topsfield — were in the district most recently represented by Jamie Belsito," they wrote. "Not seating Ms. Kassner does the newly formed Second Essex a huge disservice and leaves all six towns unrepresented."

Committee members urged the legislative panel to wrap up its work quickly, so Kassner can "can get to the business of filing bills and representing the 2nd Essex district."

Kassner originally lost to five-term incumbent Mirra by 10 votes following the election, but a recount flipped her into the lead by one vote.

Mirra contested the results in Essex County Superior Court, but the legal challenge was rejected. He was dealt another blow on Tuesday, after the state Supreme Judicial Court denied Mirra’s motion to set aside the lower court’s ruling.

In a statement on Wednesday, Kassner said she was "disappointed" at not being able to be sworn-in with the new class of 200 state lawmakers. 

“Not only am I disheartened to miss this special day but more importantly to delay getting to work on the important issues affecting the district, including water infrastructure, protection of the rivers, education, and the economy,” she said.

Besides the 2nd Essex, Mariano is also delaying the swearing-in of Democrat Margaret Scarsdale, who also won her race after a recount in the 1st Middlesex District.

Her opponent, Republican Andrew Shepherd, is also challenging the outcome. Scarsdale won a recount in the House race by only seven votes.

Mariano issued a statement the night before lawmakers were set to be sworn in, saying he would "temporarily delay" their seating. He said the Special Committee to Examine the Returns would "thoroughly review the last minute legal issues raised in each race, and affirm the results of each election."

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at

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