Jamaica Plain’s state representatives talked to the Gazette about the “difficult vote” to expel Rep. Carlos Henriquez, following his conviction on two counts of misdemeanor assault.
The Massachusetts House voted earlier this month to expel Henriquez, a Dorchester Democrat. He was convicted last month of two misdemeanor charges, stemming from an episode in July 2012 when he held down and punched a woman who refused to have sex with him. Henriquez has maintained his innocence and said he will appeal.
While the House has the ability to expel members, there was some debate over whether such a decision ultimately should be made by the voters at the ballot box.
Rep. Russell Holmes proposed an amendment to censure rather than expel Henriquez. Rep. Liz Malia voted in favor of censure and then also for expulsion. And Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez voted for the expulsion.
“It was probably the worst day I’ve ever had in the legislature,” Sánchez told the Gazette this week. “It was a difficult vote.”
“I just felt like that was the right thing to do. All of us were hoping that he would resign. Then, if he could come back and run again, then that would be his right, but he didn’t do that,” Sánchez said of Henriquez. “Everyone from the governor on down was asking for his resignation and people were howling at us for us to move ahead [with the vote.]”
“It was a pretty bad situation all around,” Malia said. “My hope was that could do something like censuring, which I voted for first.”
Holmes voted against the expulsion and proposed an amendment that would have censured Henriquez instead. That amendment was defeated by a 143-10 margin.
“People have tied me not voting to expel him as excusing him hitting a lady, and that’s not it at all,” Holmes told the Gazette this week. “Voters are the folks who decide who arrives at the state House. He was elected with folks in his district knowing his case was pending.”
“I thought expelling him was an extraordinary measure and one we’ll come to regret,” he said.
A censure is a milder form of punishment that would have allowed Henriquez to keep his seat. The House voted to expel him 146-5.
“It was the feeling inside and outside the chamber” that it was a horrible situation, Sánchez said.
Henriquez’s expulsion, the chamber’s first in 98 years, required a simple majority vote.
Before winning the representative seat, Henriquez ran unsuccessfully in 2009 for the District 7 City Council seat, which at the time represented part of JP. At that time, incumbent Chuck Turner
was facing federal bribery charges. Henriquez criticized Turner as being distracted by the charges and making his campaign about his protests of innocence, as the Gazette reported at the time. Turner won re-election, but was convicted and later expelled by the City Council.