Hefner causing unwelcome laughs
It’s hard to say who is the punch line in the saga of Bryon Hefner, the 28-year-old fiancé of Senate President Stan Rosenberg, whose loose-cannon persona is causing headaches for the once-perceived serious progressive policy wonk who has overcome a lifetime of obstacles to lead the historic chamber. But one thing is clear: People are laughing.
Hefner’s latest attempt – intentionally or unintentionally – to make Rosenberg cringe came to a screeching halt one day after it was floated that the former Senate intern-turned-public relations executive, now unemployed, was giving serious consideration to a run for the seat being vacated by Sen. Anthony Petruccelli of East Boston. It had holiday recess filler written all over it as those inside the State House and in the media jumped on the story with bemusement and befuddlement for so many reasons, not the least of which is Hefner’s total lack of experience. And lack of ties to the district. And lack of recognition. Other than that, he would have been viable.
Hefner’s confirmation to Politico that he was eyeing a run did not cause backroom giggles; it triggered open guffawing and no one held back. The Boston Globe‘s Yvonne Abraham used her column as a faux “Love Letters” with a plea from “Stan from Amherst” for advice about his fiancé making his job as the “boss” difficult by meddling in the office’s affairs.
“Look, I love the guy, but this is hard,” Fake Stan wrote. “I’m a serious person, but his antics have turned me into a joke.”
Here at CommonWealth, our headline on the State House News story had a touch of snark to it: “No go: Hefner’s ‘due diligence’ didn’t take long,” a reference to a Rosenberg comment during an uncomfortable Q&A with the Globe on Tuesday that Hefner was doing “due diligence” in looking at the race.
Some readers of the stories on several sites said the coverage of Hefner’s dalliance with the race had an undertone of homophobia, given the relationship between Rosenberg and Hefner, not to mention their 38-year age difference. Rosenberg himself told Boston Herald Radio Thursday morning he thinks the attention comes because he’s an openly gay politician. Perhaps there is some of that, but it appears to be more of the track record Hefner is building up in making head-scratching decisions for which Rosenberg is forced to explain and apologize.
Whether it’s meeting with senators last year as Rosenberg was ready to assume his new post and talking committee assignments with them, apparently without Rosenberg’s knowledge or consent, or tweeting out disparaging remarks about then-Senate president Therese Murray, or circulating a picture of him with Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Hefner has made a name for himself that has nothing to do with professional accomplishments. The Globe‘s first-day story about the potential run even included a fascinating nugget that Hefner had talked to some Amherst Democrats about possibly challenging his boyfriend for the Senate seat, which Rosenberg denied.
It’s fair to say if this was a heterosexual relationship or one between generational peers, the actions would still be news. There is a history of political spouses and significant others making life tough for those in the spotlight. Remember Martha Mitchell, wife of former Attorney General John Mitchell? Margaret Trudeau, the wife of former Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau? More locally and recently, Patrice Tierney, the wife of John Tierney. Her family did the ousted congressman no favors.
The problems transcend sexual orientation, age, even politics. It is a messy and evolving private life playing out in full public view and the roadside wreck gawkers are having a field day. Little, if any of it, is of Rosenberg’s doing.
But not being his fault doesn’t negate that it’s Rosenberg’s job to put the toothpaste back in the tube and he’s not doing a very good job of it. His responses to the questions from the Globe‘s Josh Miller during the livestreamed interview about Hefner having the “right to run” and dodging questions about his view on the matter didn’t help.
As Abraham aptly put it, quoting Emily Dickinson, “The heart wants what it wants.” But Rosenberg, who has admitted he’s never been in a serious relationship before, has to learn to use his head.
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