Removing one of the leading liberal House voices from the Legislature, Rep. Carl Sciortino plans to resign in early April to become executive director of the AIDS Action Committee, which described the Medford Democrat as the first person living with HIV to lead the group since its founding in 1982.
Sciortino plans to resign April 4 after nearly a decade in the Legislature, according to the group which announced the lawmaker’s hiring Tuesday afternoon. His departure will be the latest in a string of resignations this session and will leave a third House district without a representative heading into the busiest portion of the two-year session.
“As a gay man living with HIV, I am honored to lead one of the country’s oldest and most effective organizations in the battle against this disease which has raged on over 30 years,” Sciortino said in a statement. “My goal for AIDS Action in the years ahead is simple: continue the work that has resulted in lowering the rate of new HIV diagnoses in Massachusetts; provide the multitude of services needed to keep those living with HIV/AIDS connected with health care providers; and continue the public conversation about HIV needed to reduce the stigma that is still so closely associated with this disease.”
Sciortino last year lost his bid for election to Congress in a race eventually won by former Sen. Katherine Clark of Melrose, who filled the House seat given up by Sen. Edward Markey. He was first elected to the House in 2004 to the 34th Middlesex District representing parts of Medford and Somerville.
Last year, Sciortino led a group of progressive House lawmakers in support of Gov. Deval Patrick’s plan to generate sizeable new revenues to invest in transportation and infrastructure.
“#MAhouse will lose a strong progressive voice. Best wishes to friend & colleague Rep. @CarlSciortino as new @aidsaction Exec. Dir,” tweeted Senate Majority Leader Stanley Rosenberg, who like Sciortino is an openly gay lawmaker.
Sciortino will take over the AIDS Action Committee for Rebecca Haag, who helped facilitate the growth of the organization and a new partnership forged last year partnering the group with Fenway Health to combine Fenway’s experience in treating HIV with AIDS Action’s community-based services.
Prior to running for office, Sciortino worked as a research manager at Fenway Health. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a bachelor’s degree from Tufts University.
With House Speaker Robert DeLeo already deciding that it’s too late in the year to call any more special elections to fill the seats of departing lawmakers, Sciortino’s seat will become the third to stay vacant for the rest of 2014.
Former Rep. Steven Walsh of Lynn recently resigned to work as executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Community Hospitals and Rep. Cheryl Coakley-Rivera of Springfield plans to step down to take an assistant clerk magistrate's post in Hampden Superior Court.
Candidates hoping to run in the September primary and November general election for Sciortino’s seat, and other seats in the Legislature, have until April 29 to filed nomination signatures with local clerks to qualify for the ballot.
“Carl’s entire career has been defined by his work on social justice issues and his advocacy on behalf of those infected, affected, and at risk for HIV,” said Douglas Spencer, chair of the AIDS Action Board of Directors, in a statement. “Even with health reform and better access to care, there is still much to do to prevent the spread of HIV and ensure access to care and treatment for all of those who are infected. Carl will lead us into a new era in which we can finally win the battle against HIV and look forward to an AIDS-free generation.”
Sciortino, a vocal fighter for the rights of gay couples to marry in Massachusetts, lives in Medford with his husband.