Gov. Maura Healey administered oaths of office to three more lawmakers in her suite Wednesday morning, bringing the 160-seat House up to 159 members in the middle of bill-filing week.
For Rep. Margaret Scarsdale of Pepperell, the ceremony came just 15 hours after the House agreed to let her join its ranks following an in-depth examination of her seven-vote victory margin in last year’s election.
“What a journey,” she told the News Service after being sworn in.
Also sworn into office Wednesday were Reps. Patricia Haddad of Somerset and Erika Uyterhoeven of Somerville, who both missed the House’s inaugural session on Jan. 4.
After the oaths had been taken, Haddad told Healey that “we’re so proud to be the first to be sworn in by you.” The rest of the House was sworn in by outgoing Gov. Charlie Baker on his final full day in office.
Haddad told the News Service that her absence from the Jan. 4 session came after her husband suffered a fall and she had to take him to a hospital emergency room. The ordeal lasted all night, leaving her completely exhausted.
Uyterhoeven said she had been “really out” with a fever and had a “tough few days” that week.
There was a remote participation option that at least one representative might have taken advantage of on Jan. 4. The speaker’s office confirmed earlier this month that Rep. Jon Santiago, who serves as an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve, has been away on a deployment. He was considered sworn-in two weeks ago.
Around a dozen other lawmakers crowded into the governor’s office to watch Wednesday’s ceremony along with other guests and members of the Governor’s Council.
Healey told the legislators she “look[s] forward to working with all of you” and acknowledged the partially-filled status of her own branch of government.
“As you know, the lieutenant governor and I are still building out our team,” the governor said, “and it’s great to be joined here today by all of you … in this building.”
With a few Cabinet seats left to fill, the possibility remains open that Healey could pull from the Legislature’s ranks and create a quick vacancy — and create the need for a special election.
In the meantime, one House seat remains a question mark. The 2nd Essex District continues to be represented on a holdover basis by Republican Rep. Leonard Mirra of Georgetown while a House special committee continues to review a one-vote margin between the incumbent Mirra and challenger Kristin Kassner, a Hamilton Democrat.
It was that special committee that opened the door Tuesday evening for Scarsdale’s swearing-in, with a seven-page report declaring her “properly elected and qualified.” (The full report is 462 pages long including appendices.)
The report called attention to “missteps” in the administration of Scarsdale’s election against Republican Andrew Shepherd of Townsend. The committee said those missteps were “benign” and did not affect the outcome, but that “similar missteps in the future, if occurring on a larger scale, could affect future elections.”
Asked about that finding Wednesday, Scarsdale told reporters that the results, which were subject to a hand recount, went through a “very thorough, very transparent, and very scrutinized process.”
“Like, you could not be in the rooms with the recounts that were literally crammed with volunteers, registrars, counsel, looking at these ballots, every single one, almost 20,000, looking at every single one of those by hand. So I think that the election was administered fairly, and very happy that we ended up being the victor,” she said.
Now, Scarsdale said, she feels “fabulous” — and it’s time to get to work.
The first-time representative took office with just two and a half days until the term’s initial bill-filing deadline, but she said she’s already been working on “a cornucopia of bills” and aims to file around 12 proposals by Friday. Her initial priority list “runs the gamut,” she said, dealing with firefighters, teachers, nurses and the environment.
“You know, it’s been a very long road, and it seems like at least this one is officially over,” Scarsdale said of her circuitous route to the swearing-in. “And that just means we can continue on the other road, which is really the more important road, about serving the district and giving 1st Middlesex a voice, and I love being a part of that.”