Ronald Mariano is not exactly reprising John Goodman’s 1991 role as the coarse American who becomes an unlikely heir to the British throne, but it’s hard not to think of “King Ralph” when the speaker of the state House of Representatives inserts his foot into his mouth.
Mariano, a 30-year lawmaker elevated to speaker to succeed Robert DeLeo in December, stumbled, to put it charitably, while attending an event in the South End last week for state Rep. Jon Santiago, who is running for mayor of Boston.
After Santiago extended his thanks for the speaker’s endorsement, Mariano remarked he was “afraid my car’s gonna get stolen.” According to State House News Service, Mariano sent around an apology later the same day and explained that he was telling people before the event about how a car of his actually had been stolen when he went to Northeastern back in the 1960s.
Instead of basking in an endorsement, Santiago spent the rest of the day tiptoeing around its offensive delivery, which besmirched a Boston neighborhood.
Those weren’t even the worst comments Mariano made last week. That distinction is an interview he gave to The Boston Globe in light of its reporting on responsibility for the deadly COVID-19 outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, wherein Mariano deflected questions about Gov. Charlie Baker’s role in slipshod oversight of the facility.
Notably, the governor was not called to testify before a legislative committee investigating the outbreak and shoddy management of the home. “I don’t know. I don’t know. It’s really not my call,” Mariano, head of the state government’s legislative branch, with all of its oversight authority, told the newspaper when asked whether the head of the executive branch had been responsible.
Mariano doesn’t know. It sounds much like the interview he gave to WCVB in December, when reporter Sharman Sacchetti asked how the state’s vaccine distribution was going and he said, “I have no idea.” When pressed further, he added, “I just got here.”
The disappointments are piling up for the still-new House speaker. His shrugs and offensive comments are made even worse given that his ascendence into this leadership role was fait accompli, the result of backroom arrangements among Democrats, rather than any real choice and voice of the members of the state House of Representatives.