State Rep.-elect Jenny Armini gets sworn into office today, restoring the 8th Essex District’s representation in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Her oath of office comes nearly a year after her predecessor, former state Rep. Lori Ehrlich, resigned in January of 2022 for a job with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The Marblehead Current sat down with Armini in the fall to discuss what she hopes to do on Beacon Hill; the newspaper’s story from that interview can be found below.
Jenny Armini was recently in Pleasant Street’s Starbucks when, in relatively short order, it became apparent in at least one way why she topped a six-way primary for the 8th Essex District Democratic nomination in September.
“Hi Jake,” Armini said to the barista, clad in a red apron, behind the service counter. “How is your mom?”
Armini put her order in and before she sat down, she would have conversations with two more people. Meanwhile, former Marblehead Select Board member Bill Conly spotted Armini and introduced her to members of his morning coffee club.
The impromptu exchanges encapsulate Armini’s interactions over the past two months. Barring a successful write-in campaign, she will become state representative-elect for Swampscott, Marblehead and a sliver of Lynn when polls close Tuesday night.
Big shoes to fill
She is the sole candidate vying for the 8th Essex District seat appearing on the Nov. 8 ballot, and her swearing-in come January will restore the district’s representation after nearly a yearlong vacancy. Former Rep. Lori Ehrlich of Marblehead previously represented the district until she resigned in January for a job with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
In a lot of ways, Armini has already gotten to work, holding meetings and events on the campaign trail.
“I’m talking with people all over the district, listening and developing relationships that are going to help me do the job,” she recently told the Marblehead Democratic Town Committee. “I’m having conversations and meetings with an eye and ear toward legislation. When I talk to people I ask myself, ‘What is it about this situation, this person that could play a role in legislation on Beacon Hill—or moving an agenda, even if it isn’t legislation.”
She will follow in the footsteps of a state lawmaker whose nearly 15-year tenure was marked by either being where the legislative conversation was at or starting the legislative conversation. Ehrlich ushered bills on a myriad of topics into state law from noncompete clauses and red flag regulations to improving animal welfare and safety and stopping gas leaks (perhaps her centerpiece achievement, both in scope and commitment).
Armini and Ehrlich not only share Harvard Kennedy School of Government as their alma mater but also a deep interest in environmental issues. Armini considers climate change “the existential crisis of our time.”
“From Marblehead Light to the Nahant rotary,” Armini said, “this is a crystal district.”
She hopes to land a seat on the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee – which she said does more for climate change legislation than the Climate Change Committee.
“The Climate Change Committee really doesn’t do legislation. It’s viewed more on Beacon Hill as a study committee,” Armini said. “Naturally, I’m interested in that energy committee, what I’ll call a ‘blue chip’ committee.”
She said she’s under “no illusion” that she’ll get a seat on the standing committee out of the gate.
“At least for the first time out,” she said, “but that will be a target for me.”
She’s also interested in labor, housing and education issues.
All politics is relationship-building?
“There’s really so much,” Armini said. She said she would like to be helpful in making downtown Lynn a public transportation hub.
“We have the commuter rail and buses to Wonderland,” she said. “We have to electrify the rail. We have to reinstate the Lynn ferry.”
She wants to be an advocate for bettering the social and emotional well-being of youth recovering from the COVID-19 era.
“I don’t want this to be a COVID-19 generation,” she said. “We must get them what they need socially and emotionally.”
Armini supports more transparency on Beacon Hill, but she said it’s a change that she suspects will happen over time and not overnight.
“We talked a lot about transparency on the campaign,” she said, “but I need to get in the room where the decisions are being made to really make sure that the transparency debate resonates.”
She added, “I’m really going to be focusing on building those relationships and bringing our voice to the debates.”
She said she understands change demands patience.
“It would be a mistake to tell you, ‘I’m gonna pass this, this and this as a freshman’ because that’s not realistic,” she said. “It wasn’t realistic when I worked in Congress either.”
She said she needs to respect precedent.
“These legislative bodies are deliberative,” said Armini. “They are hierarchical and that’s the nature of these things.”
Armini will enter the state representative post with extensive political acumen. She has worked as a senior advisor and legislative aid, speechwriter and policy expert. She co-founded Elect Blue, a grass roots political group dedicated to electing Democrats in 2018, and served as head of communication for MassINC, a leading nonpartisan policy think tank in the commonwealth.
Armini will begin organizing her operations, schedule monthly office hours in the district as well as build out her team in earnest post-election.
“It’s going to be all about the nuts and bolts,” she said.