By Nick Neville
Boston University Statehouse Program
Standing alongside her Democratic colleagues, Senator Harriette L. Chandler, D-Worcester, announced Wednesday she will remain Senate President through the remainder of the 2018 legislative session as former Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg, D-Amherst, faces new scrutiny.
Chandler assumed the title of Acting Senate President on Dec. 4, after Rosenberg relinquished his leadership position amid sexual assault allegations leveled against his husband, Bryon Hefner. Chandler said the word “acting” will be removed from her title at Thursday’s formal session.
“We have work to do for the people who have elected us,” Chandler told reporters at the Statehouse. “‘Acting’ doesn’t quite do it anymore. We are now at the point where we need a president who has the full responsibilities and the full authority of a presidency.”
In a prepared statement, the 80-year-old legislator said the chamber’s focus “continues to be on policy, the budget and the business of legislating.”
The intrigue surrounding the presidency had become a distraction on Beacon Hill in recent days. With Wednesday being Joint Rule 10 Day — when all measures must be reported out of committee and one of the busier days of the two-year legislative session — a return to normalcy is welcome in the Senate according to comments from Chandler.
An election will be held on Jan. 2, 2019, the first date of the new legislative session, to determine the new leadership. Chandler will not be running for that permanent seat but four other senators — Sen. Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, Sal DiDomenico, D-Everett, Eileen Donoghue, D-Lowell and Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow — have emerged as potential candidates.
Wednesday’s announcement was after Senate Democrats held a private caucus to determine the fate of the position for the rest of the year. The swift action came on the heels of reporting in the Boston Globe over the weekend which accused Hefner of meddling with Senate business by accessing Rosenberg’s emails, despite insistence that the former Senate President had erected a firewall.
“If those allegations are true, and at this point they’re allegations, then I don’t see any way he could remain Senate president, no,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker told reporters Monday.
Rosenberg, who remains a senator, denied Hefner had any influence over his duties. The Senate Ethics Committee has hired outside legal counsel to investigate whether the 68-year-old legislator broke chamber rules and Rosenberg has said he looks forward to the investigation’s completion.
Chandler declined to comment when asked whether Rosenberg would be a candidate for the presidency next year.
“That’s something you have to ask Senator Rosenberg,” Chandler said.
All Senate members are up for re-election this fall. Rosenberg, who was first elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1986, has already taken out nomination papers.
Senator Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, told the Statehouse News Service that Chandler has provided a sense of stability to the Senate during this turbulent time and he is “comfortable with her remaining president.”