Controversy Erupts in Endorsement by Speaker Mariano

A funny thing happened to House Speaker Ron Mariano on the way to endorsing State Rep. and mayoral candidate Jon Santiago – he tripped and fell flat over his words.

In what was to be a banner endorsement day for Santiago on the courtyard of Plaza Betances in the South End, it became an event with a focus on Mariano’s off-the-cuff comment about his car being stolen.

 Apparently, Mariano said in an apology issued Wednesday, he had been talking to Santiago and other colleagues about attending Northeastern University years ago. At the time, he had his car stolen multiple times, and so when he got to the podium, he tried to keep the narrative going and said he hoped that his car didn’t get stolen.

   While there was context, it went over like a lead balloon in that heavily Hispanic part of the South End, and also in a neighborhood that has emerged from being a high-crime area.

 “I’m sorry and I regret my comments,” Mariano said in a written apology. “It was a poorly delivered attempt at humor referencing my personal experience as a college student in the `60s when my car was stolen, which I had shared with folks at the event prior to the program. My intention was not to portray the neighborhood or the city in a negative light, but to endorse the candidate who I believe should be the next mayor of Boston.”

Santiago said he didn’t plan to reject the endorsement, but he did say he rejects the comment made about the South End, even if it was a bad attempt at humor.

  “Speaker Mariano’s comments (Tuesday) morning in the South End were disappointing,” said Santiago. “Shortly before our event, I was proudly showing him how much our community had changed since he was here as a student 50 years ago. He agreed. Friends are honest with each other and I’ve expressed my concern to him. He’s said he’s sorry and I accept the apology, but I reject the comment because it’s emblematic of the kind of thinking we’re trying to move beyond.”

When asked if he would reject the endorsement, he said he would not.

“No. The Speaker is my friend and success in expanding opportunity for our city means bringing everyone to the table who wants to be a part of it and having tough conversations,” he said. “He’s apologized and I accept it and look forward to working with him as mayor to advance the city’s needs on Beacon Hill.”

The Ward 4 Democratic Committee, which last weekend endorsed Santiago’s opponent – Michelle Wu, said the candidate should not accept the endorsement.

“We cherish the diversity of the South End and believe that our elected officials should be better than making or tolerating racist ‘jokes,’ as House Speaker Ron Mariano did today during an endorsement event for State Rep. Jon Santiago,” said Chair Jonathan Cohn. “Rep. Santiago and his colleagues should disavow such comments, and Speaker Mariano should apologize.”Beyond the misstep, the event did feature a cavalcade of state representatives that are backing Santiago. In addition to Mariano, they included Ways & Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz, Majority Leader Claire Cronin, Speaker Pro Tem Kate Hogan, Jim O’Day, Frank Moran, Ed Coppinger, Sean Garbally, Paul Donato, Tommy Vitolo, Meg Kilcoyne, Rich Haggerty, Paul McMurtry, Danielle Gregoire, Bill Driscoll and Jessica Giannino.

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