No one was smiling as Steve Klein reviewed the state's fiscal challenges, but once that nasty piece of business was completed, House Democrats were hugging and clapping and unanimous in their selection of new leadership.
Smith, the Democratic nominee for House speaker, and his now former rival, Rep. Mark Larson, sat side-by-side and Larson nominated Smith. "I know Shap
shared my values," Larson said. "I'm proud and prepared to stand by his side when he becomes speaker of the House."
When Smith took the microphone, he complimented each of his rivals -- Rep. John Rodgers of Glover, Rep. Johannah Donovan of Burlington, Rep. Carolyn Partridge of Windham and Larson. Larson and Smith both spoke of spending their first two years in the Legislature on the same committee -- Fish and Wildlife. Smith said of Larson, "I'm incredibly grateful to call you my friend and really look forward to the next two years, working together."
What does that mean? Will there be some committee chairmanship for Larson?
Similarly, Rep. Janet Ancel
nominated Rep. Floyd Nease
to be House Democratic Leader, noting that since she only pulled out of the race Friday, she hadn't had a lot of time to work on her speech. Ancel
had many strengths, "but I don't think one is his choice of a barber." Nease
was sporting a new hairstyle -- a kind of buzz cut.Nease
"a class act." He joked that he hoped the caucus wouldn't have "buyers' remorse because "you didn't elect the smartest person."
Rep. Steve Maier
, nominated Rep. Lucy Leriche
, to be assistant leader, then noted she wasn't at the caucus. She was on the other side of the globe on a long-planned vacation -- scuba diving.
Rep. Jason Lorber
, D-Burlington, had been a candidate for the assistant leader slot. In endorsement Leriche
, he said, "You need someone who will be straight with you." He kept a straight face while the caucus giggled. Lorber
is gay. He tried another line, saying Lucy would always have "the skinny" on issues, a reference to her slim build. He didn't get much reaction to that line. "OK, not as good as the first one."
As is usual at these organizational caucuses, everybody was talking unity. Partridge, stepping down after four years as House Democratic Leader including the last two with a 93-member caucus, identified the big challenge. Democrats now have an even bigger majority -- 95.
"That can be a great blessing or it can be a great curse," she said. Saturday, Democrats were hopeful they could transform their majority into a blessing.
-- Nancy Remsen