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State Senate Says No To Rosenberg Return, Sets Up 2019 Race For Leadership

Senate President Harriette Chandler, surrounded by nearly every Democratic Senator, announced that she will remain president for the rest of the year.
Senate President Harriette Chandler, surrounded by nearly every Democratic Senator, announced that she will remain president for the rest of the year.
Mike Deehan / WGBH News

Worcester Senator Harriette Chandler will serve as President of the Senate for the remainder of the year, a move by Democrats that closes the door on Sen. Stan Rosenberg's return to the presidency.

Rosenberg stepped down as president late last year while an ethics investigation probed his involvement in alleged influence peddling and sexual misconduct by his husband.

After months of scandal and an investigation into what Rosenberg himself knew or allowed, the 80 percent Democratic Senate moved on, elevating majority leader Chandler from "Acting President" to the full presidency for the remainder of the 2018 session.

"We have reached a point where we are not into the business of doing what we're here to do, which is legislating," Chandler told reporters after the Democratic caucus agreed to her elevation.

"We have work to do for the people who have elected us. We need a president who has the full responsibilities and the full authority of a president of the senate," Chandler said.

The 80 year old Chandler has vowed not to be a candidate when the Senate votes to pick its president at the beginning of the next session in January.

The Boston Globe reported allegations that Rosenberg's husband Bryon Hefner had access to Rosenberg's official email, tried to influence the state budget and pressured men with government business to have sex, using his husband's position as leverage.

Rosenberg denies he allowed his husband to influence any official business and says he didn't know about any sexual misconduct.

Rosenberg could have returned at the conclusion of the investigation, but allegations mounted that the "firewall" Rosenberg vowed to maintain between his husband and senate business was nonexistent and support for his return eroded to only the most loyal of supporters.

If Rosenberg is reelected by his very supportive Pioneer Valley district, he would still be eligible to stand for the presidency, but it's unlikely his fellow Democrats would be open to his return.

Extending Chandler's time in charge doesn't mean the race to become the next Senate President has stopped, but it has evolved from a sprint into a marathon.

A handful of ambitious Democrats had been jockeying for support throughout the weeks Rosenberg has been under investigation in case he decided to quit.

Now, the race to become president will be more traditional, with senators bartering with colleagues for their vote leading up to the next session in January.

Longmeadow Sen. Eric Lesser threw his hat into the ring just the other day and says he's still interested in becoming Senate President at the start of next year's term.

"A new year and a new session is a new opportunity to have a conversation about the future of the body and I will be thinking very seriously about the role I can play in that future,"

Senators Karen Spilka, Eileen Donoghue and Sal DiDomenico are also interested, but with Rosenberg out, more candidates could become involved.

Republican Leader Bruce Tarr doesn't have much direct sway over who the majority Democrats pick to lead the chamber, but the veteran lawmaker has seen several fights for the job play out.

Tarr says making Chandler the president for a year lessens the urgency Democrats faced to replace Rosenberg and helps stabilize the chamber as it enters a busy political season

"I think it's human nature that people are interested in being Senate President. They aren't going stop being interested in being Senate president for the rest of the year, but what it does do is allow us to focus on the matters before us as a legislature and they are many," Tarr said.

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