Democrats in the Massachusetts Senate moved this week to address a leadership crisis that was threatening to drown the legislative agenda in the final few months of the two-year session.
Embattled State Senator Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst) will not be returning to the Senate Presidency this year. His Senate colleagues saw to that when they voted unanimously to make Senator Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester) the Senate President and remove “acting” from Chandler’s title.
State Sen. Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow) said it is important to have stability as the legislature prepares to take up a state budget and debates major bills on criminal justice reform and healthcare cost containment.
"We need one Senate President at a time and we needed to make sure Harriette Chandler had the unified support she needed to be effective," said Lesser who added: " She has my complete support and trust and confidence to move us forward."
Rosenberg stepped down from the leadership post in December after the Boston Globe reported that his husband Bryon Hefner had sexually harassed men with business before the legislature and had boasted of his influence over policy decisions in the Senate.
The plan was for Chandler to take over temporarily while the Senate’s Ethics Committee investigated to see if Rosenberg violated any Senate rules.
More recently, the Globe reported Hefner was given access to Rosenberg’s Senate email and calendar, despite assurances from Rosenberg that he kept a “firewall” between his professional and personal lives.
State Senator Don Humason (R-Westfield) said the questions swirling around Rosenberg’s future have been a distraction.
"The Senate does not stand alone. We have to work with the House, the governor's office, with constituents, members of the the advocacy community, and all the people we deal with on Beacon Hill and in our home districts. The number one topic of conversation is: ' What do you think about Stan?',' What do you think about the issue?','What about the investigation?' When you are answering all those questions you are not really getting to the work at hand," explained Humason.
Chandler, 80, said her term as Senate President will run through the end of 2018 and she will not be a candidate for the top leadership job when a new legislative session begins in January 2019.
Four Democratic Senators have said they are interested in the presidency in 2019, including Lesser, who acknowledged his interest just this week.
" But, I want to make clear I have made no final decision yet. This is very far off. Right now we have a Senate President and that Senate President is Harlee Chandler," said Lesser referring to Chandler by her nickname.
When Rosenberg left the presidency in December he called it “a leave of absence.” But, Springfield-based political consultant Tony Cignoli said it now looks more like a permanent exile.
"The presidency, I think, is gone for him," said Cignoli, who added he believed Rosenberg could still be effective in the Senate in a senior statesman-like role.
Rosenberg recently took out nomination papers to run for re-election this year in the Senate district he has represented since 1991.