Senate president showdown coming

Murray entering final term under term-limits

THE MASSACHUSETTS STATE SENATE has had firm term limits for its leaders on the books for nearly 20 years. William Bulger put the limits in place (prospectively) as a way of quelling dissent during his long hold on the Senate gavel. It’s only now, two decades after the Senate enacted an eight-year limit on the body’s presidency, that a politician is actually confronting its realities.

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Paul McMorrow

Associate Editor, CommonWealth

About Paul McMorrow

Paul McMorrow comes to CommonWealth from Banker & Tradesman, where he covered commercial real estate and development. He previously worked as a contributing editor to Boston magazine, where he covered local politics in print and online. He got his start at the Weekly Dig, where he worked as a staff writer, and later news and features editor. Paul writes a frequent column about real estate for the Boston Globe’s Op-Ed page, and is a regular contributor to BeerAdvocate magazine. His work has been recognized by the City and Regional Magazine Association, the New England Press Association, and the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. He is a Boston University graduate and a lifelong New Englander.

About Paul McMorrow

Paul McMorrow comes to CommonWealth from Banker & Tradesman, where he covered commercial real estate and development. He previously worked as a contributing editor to Boston magazine, where he covered local politics in print and online. He got his start at the Weekly Dig, where he worked as a staff writer, and later news and features editor. Paul writes a frequent column about real estate for the Boston Globe’s Op-Ed page, and is a regular contributor to BeerAdvocate magazine. His work has been recognized by the City and Regional Magazine Association, the New England Press Association, and the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. He is a Boston University graduate and a lifelong New Englander.

Senate President Therese Murray is entering what is likely her final two-year term atop the Senate. The Plymouth Democrat took the gavel from Robert Travaglini in early 2007, so if she strung every available day out of the term, she could preside into the beginning of 2015. (Murray has left the door open to continuing to serve in the Senate after she relinquishes the presidency.)

Effectively, though, the current 2013-2014 term is Murray’s last hurrah as president and, as the session progresses, her colleagues are going to be wrestling with something the Senate has never seen—a leadership fight that comes with a deadline.

Bulger, the Senate’s longest-serving president, left soon after putting the eight-year limit in place. Tom Birming­ham ran for governor after six years. Robert Travaglini succumbed to the siren song of a lobbyist’s paycheck after four. Murray looks dug in—meaning her potential successors know they have two years to line up their votes. Michael Gold­man, longtime Beacon Hill consultant and a veteran of the rough 1984 battle for the House speakership, says maneuvering in leadership contests “can happen very quickly.” And, he adds, “it can make for a very rough session.”