Chandler no longer “acting”

Senate Dems look to put Rosenberg in the rear view mirror

SENATE DEMOCRATS AGREED to remove the “acting” title from Senate President Harriette Chandler for the remainder of the year before holding an election for a new president, deciding the storm clouds hovering over Sen. Stan Rosenberg were overwhelming the chamber’s business and precluding any comeback by the former president at least this year and maybe for good.

“I am the president, I will continue to be throughout this term,” Chandler said in announcing the decision following a closed two-hour caucus of the Democratic senators. “We have now reached a point where we are into the business of doing what we’re sent here to do, which is legislating… Acting doesn’t quite do it anymore. We need a president who has the full responsibilities and full authority of the president of the Senate.”

The Senate will vote on making Chandler Senate president Thursday and she will select a new majority leader to take her post. But the 80-year-old Worcester senator dismissed any thought she would run for the seat again when the new term starts, which will pave the way for others with more ambition to press their colleagues for support. Chandler insisted those who have expressed interest in the seat will put their backroom campaigning aside while the Senate returns to day-to-day business for the remainder of the term, though few believe that will be the case.

“They were among the people who agreed to this and voted for this,” she said.

The action comes three days after a Boston Globe columnist wrote that Rosenberg had instructed his staff to give his husband, Bryon Hefner, access to his emails and calendars. The Globe story quoted unnamed sources as saying Hefner lobbied staff and senators on policies and budget items while intimating he had the ear of his spouse, despite Rosenberg’s insistence over the last two years that there was a “firewall” between him and Hefner regarding Senate business.

Rosenberg, who temporarily stepped aside in December while the Senate Ethics Committee conducted an investigation, said at the time of the initial revelations that Hefner had entered a rehab facility for treatment of alcohol addiction. Last month, his office announced the couple had separated.

Rosenberg, who was not present at the caucus, issued a statement saying he understood the decision and said he was sorry for becoming a distraction.

“I am confident that Senate President Chandler will serve the Senate and the Commonwealth with distinction,” Rosenberg said. “I support what’s best for the Senate and the Commonwealth, and I deeply regret the disruption that has been caused by the necessity of the investigation. I reiterate that Bryon had no influence over my actions or decisions as Senate President, and I look forward to the completion of the investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee.”

A spokesman for Gov. Charlie Baker said the administration will work with Chandler “to tackle the pressing legislative priorities remaining this session.” House Speaker Robert DeLeo congratulated Chandler but said his focus is on the House.

“I congratulate President Chandler on her election as the permanent Senate President,” DeLeo said in a statement. “The House is focused on working together to represent our constituents, move ahead on legislative priorities and put forward a thoughtful budget. I have enjoyed working with Senator Chandler over the last few weeks and I look forward to doing so the remainder of the session.”

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, who praised Chandler for “acting very professionally and resourcefully,” said he would offer himself as a candidate for Senate president when the time comes, as he does each term, but with just nine Republicans, his chances are negligible. But, with those votes, the GOP could be a player in a fractured race for president if no one has a lock on Democrats, offering nearly 40 percent of the 21 votes needed to secure the post.

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

“The Republicans will always play a role because the election of a Senate president is done by the entire body,” he told reporters in a meeting in his office.

Tarr said while he thinks Rosenberg cannot be effective as Senate president, it’s to the people in his district to determine whether he should continue to serve as a senator. But Tarr, a member of the Ethics Committee, said the investigation doesn’t end because Rosenberg has been ousted as president.

“If he remains a member, he would still be subject to the investigation,” Tarr said, adding that “no matter what, there will be a look at the integrity of the process.”