BOSTON -- With formal sessions winding down and the two-year election cycle already underway, two new members joined the Massachusetts Legislature Wednesday, marking the third time Gov. Charlie Baker has sworn in new lawmakers since the COVID-19 state of emergency began in March.

Reps. Carol Doherty of Taunton and Dan Sena of Acton, both Democrats, embarked upon their political careers in the House amidst turbulent times, with a pandemic killing and infecting people by the thousands, an economic crisis trigged by virus-related business shutdowns and the nation embroiled in protests and emerging debate over how to stop policy brutality and address structural racism and inequities.

With friends and family crowded around the State House's Grand Staircase, Gov. Charlie Baker officiated as Sena and Doherty took the oath of office. The area has become the defacto setting for swearing-in ceremonies, replacing the pomp and circumstance of the traditional ritual held in the House chamber.

Sena said he wants to use his time as a state representative to focus on health insurance, prescription drug costs, universal pre-kindergarten, and climate change with an emphasis on solar and wind energy.

"I'm very excited and happy that this day has arrived," he told the News Service. "We had a long campaign with the postponing of the coronavirus, all that kind of just added to the weight, but very, very excited to be here today."

Doherty said the ceremony was impressive and wants to immediately focus her attention on the state's budget.

"That's obviously a critical component of the work that I'm going to be doing at this level is to support the budgets for those who are most needy -- to fulfill my promise to focus on working families in all of its breadth and depth," she said.

Baker swore in Sens. Susan Moran (D-Falmouth) and John Velis (D-Westfield) in late May and Rep. Kate Lipper-Garabedian (D-Melrose) in late March. Each affair has marked the addition of Democrats to the Legislature leaving the Republicans with only 31 seats out 160 in the lower chamber and 4 out of 40 in the upper chamber.

Doherty retook a seat last held by Republican Shaunna O'Connell, who left the House to serve as the mayor of Taunton. Doherty prevailed over Republican candidate Kelly Dooner 2,069 to 1,551 in Taunton and 123 to 95 in the district's one Easton precinct.

Sena trounced Lunenburg Republican Cathy Clark with 4,226 votes to 1,471, according to unofficial tallies from town clerks. The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee said Sena is the nation's first Brazilian immigrant elected to a state legislature.

The special election season is over for now but both representatives are slated to restart campaigning for the upcoming primaries and general elections almost immediately. Both representatives have turned in their signatures for the fall elections and are taking on the challenge of balancing daily work with campaigning.

As for tonight, Doherty said she is attending a meeting of the Taunton School Committee, of which she is a member, to deal "with the hard issues of cutting about $4.5 million from our school budget."

"We had one of the lowest per-pupil expenditures in the state among the municipalities, and we can't afford to hold our kids hostage to budget cuts," she said. "We want to do the very best that we can to keep the quality education."

State House News Service

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