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John Stuart Happ (born February 17, 1960) is the current Governor of Massachusetts, serving in that position since 2004. Happ was previously the Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts (2003-2004) and was a member of the Massachusetts State Senate from 1997-2003 and the Massachusetts State House of Representatives from 1993-1997.
Happ ascended to the Governorship upon the resignation of Jay Leno in December of 2004 to assume the Presidency of the United States. As Governor, Happ extended health care to all Massachusetts citizens, reformed public employee pensions, legalized recreational marijuana use and has balanced the budget every year without raising taxes. Happ is regarded as a potential candidate for President in 2016.
Early and Personal Life
John Stuart Happ was born in Sioux Falls, Nebraska to John Edward Happ and Mary Elizabeth (nee Wilson) on February 17, 1960. His father was of Scottish and Dutch ancestry, and his mother's family was predominantly English. His father was an insurance broker and his mother was a hair stylist. In 1966, shortly after his younger brother John Edward, Jr. was born, the Happs moved to Boston, Massachusetts when his father was hired for a headquarters position at Boston Life Insurance (BLI). Happ attended The Deerfield Academy, a boarding school, for junior and senior high school, playing football and wrestling. He graduated in 1978 and attended Cornell University for his undergraduate degree in public policy and then attended the University of Massachusetts for his law degree, finishing in 1985.
Happ worked for the prosecutor's office in Middlesex County for several years, interning under future Congressman Tim Reilly. In 1990, Happ decided to run for the state house in the 17th District - he registered as a Democrat and narrowly lost in the primary to incumbent John Broward by 113 votes. In 1992, he ran again, this time in the 13th district after having moved to Boston, and won the Democratic primary by 16 votes after two recounts and went on to win the general election that fall.
State Government 1993-2004
Happ, at only 32 upon his election, was the second-youngest member of the State Legislature upon entry but quickly made a name for himself as a centrist Democrat seeking to help cut spending and attracting businesses to locate to Boston. In 1994, he was handily reelected and he began to considering seeking a state Senate seat upon learning that incumbent local Senator Dick Grant was considering retiring. Happ easily won election to the state Senate in 1996 and was appointed to the Finance and Health committees, where he had the opportunity to quickly emerge as a potential statewide officeholder after famously grilling then-Governor Carl Markman's nominee for Secretary of Health, Julia Philson. Happ was encouraged to run for Attorney General in 1998 and he formed an exploratory committee, but withdrew prior to the Democratic primary. He was easily reelected in 2000 to the State Senate, and was appointed head of the Senate Budget Committee, where he railed against the state's reputation as "Taxachusetts," pleasing Nationalists and conservative Democrats, while slamming the state's drug laws as draconian and encouraging more robust employment protection laws, pleasing the left.
Despite having challenged former labor activist and then-Governor Jay Leno to pass more employee-friendly business laws, Happ enjoyed a cordial relationship with Leno's chief of staff Don Brown and was added to the 2002 ticket as the candidate for Lieutenant Governor, requiring Happ to give up his second attempt at Attorney General. Happ replaced Pete Kensington, who requested to not be nominated for a second term as Lieutenant Governor. The Leno-Happ ticket defeated Attorney General Paul Celluci at the polls that November, and the Democratic Party controlled every elected statewide office in Massachusetts for the first time in history.
As Lieutenant Governor, Happ kept a low profile, mostly acting as Leno's surrogate to the state Senate. He served as Acting Governor on multiple occasions in 2003 and 2004 once Leno began campaigning for the Presidential election, and was sworn in as Governor of Massachusetts upon Leno's resignation in December of 2004 after winning the Presidency. At 43 years old upon his inauguration, he was the youngest Governor of Massachusetts since John Hancock.