Massachusetts Democratic state senator Cheryl A. Jacques said she will delay resigning her post to become the new head of the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign until after January 1, a move that will increase her state pension and foil Democratic Party plans to use the state's March presidential primary to fend off a Republican bid to reclaim her seat. Jacques, who was selected earlier this month to lead the Washington, D.C.-based HRC, said Tuesday that she will remain in the state senate until January. By holding on to her senate seat until the New Year, Jacques will get credit for a full year of state service when it comes to her pension. Democratic leaders wanted her to step down by mid December so that a primary for her replacement could be held in mid January, with a Democratic candidate presented to voters in a March 2 general election. "My only concern is my district," Jacques, 41, who has been a state senator since 1992, told The Boston Globe. "I will fulfill my responsibilities to the district as long as I can."
The battle for Jacques's senate seat is expected to be fierce. The GOP held the seat for years until Jacques won in 1992, and the Republicans and Gov. Mitt Romney have promised an all-out fight to win it back as part of their efforts to challenge the overwhelmingly Democratic majorities in the statehouse. With Jacques staying on until January, the general election for the seat cannot be legally held until April. The senate establishes a date for the primary and general election once the seat becomes vacant. Democrats had hoped for a March 2 general election to coincide with the state's presidential primary. That would give Democrats an advantage because the crowded field of Democratic presidential hopefuls would produce a strong turnout. Republicans are not expected to go to the polls in strength because President Bush is unopposed.
HRC selected Jacques to be its new head after a 10-month search. She replaces Elizabeth Birch, whose contract runs through the end of the year. A former prosecutor, Jacques is openly gay and has twin boys with her partner.