The leadership shakeup marks one of Healey’s first major power plays as her party’s top elected official in Massachusetts. Healey’s historic victory last fall as the first woman and openly lesbian to be elected governor paved the way for Democrats to claim full control of Beacon Hill for the second time in 30 years.
“It’s not a coincidence that under Gus’s leadership, last year was one of the most successful years for our party, electing Democrats everywhere. I want to thank Gus for his outstanding service as party chairman,” Healey, who is in Washington, DC, for the National Governors Association winter meeting, said in a statement.
Democrats won 19 seats under Bickford, including more than a dozen in the Legislature and, last fall, a trio of law enforcement seats long held by Republicans on Cape Cod and the South Shore. With the elections of Healey and Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll last fall, Democrats now hold every state and congressional office in Massachusetts, giving the party a governing trifecta on Beacon Hill.
Bickford highlighted all those accomplishments in an interview, saying that after finally electing a woman as governor, he is ready to step aside.
“I have been trying to elect a female governor for 30 years. That is finished. I have options, and I think at some point you have to move on,» Bickford said.
Bickford’s term doesn’t expire until November 2024. But he will leave on April 24 with a few blemishes on his stellar Democratic picking record.
An internal review found Bickford violated the party statutes by running in the 2020 primary between Rep. Richard Neal and then-Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse. A scathing report found that Bickford violated party rules by «encouraging» a group of college Democrats to come forward with allegations about Morse’s inappropriate behavior. bickford won re-election as party chairman days later, though some Democrats remain upset by the ordeal.
Some procedural moves need to happen before Healey’s wish to transfer power between Bickford and Kerrigan can be fulfilled.
Kerrigan will need to be elected to the state committee to run for president. He will likely be elected treasurer at the party’s next meeting — current treasurer Kathy Gasperine also announced his departure Saturday — and then president. The Democrats followed a similar process by naming John Walsh party chairman after Deval Patrick’s election as governor in 2006.
Healey said he is «proudly endorsing» Kerrigan for president. “Steve is smart, collaborative and knows what it takes to build successful campaigns at the federal, state and local levels. I am confident that Steve is the best option to carry our party forward,” he said.
Kerrigan, in an interview, praised Bickford for his decades of service and said he looks forward to working with both the outgoing president and Healey «as we move into the next phase and continue to advance Democratic causes and candidates.» She also said that he intends to keep his job as president and CEO of the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center while he serves as president.