State Senator John A. Hart Jr., a South Boston Democrat and a heavy favorite to succeed Therese Murray as Senate president, plans to announce Tuesday that he is resigning to take a job at a law firm.
His departure will set of a behind-the-scenes race among those hoping to be the next Senate president. Murray, a Plymouth Democrat, is bound by term limits to leave the president’s post in 2015. But some believe she may quit the Senate before that.
“When it happens, it will be a wide-open scramble,” Hart said in an interview Monday. “There are many valid candidates.”
Hart, 51, was first elected to the House in 1996 and to the Senate in 2002 and is perhaps best known outside the State House for crooning Irish tunes and cracking corny jokes as host of the annual Saint Patrick’s breakfast in South Boston.
He said that serving in the Senate has been the “thrill of a lifetime” but that he could not pass up a job offer from the law firm of Nelson Mullins.
“I was not interested in looking to leave at all, but this firm had approached me several weeks ago with an opportunity that was in the best interests of my wife and four children,” Hart said.
Hart said he was particularly proud of his work helping to spur construction of the South Boston convention center and of his support for the University of Massachusetts Boston and the South Boston beaches, which have undergone a major cleanup, along with Boston Harbor.
A special election will now be set to fill Hart’s seat.
The race could draw a wide field. State Representative Linda Dorcena Forry of Dorchester and former city councilor Michael Flaherty of Boston said Monday night that they would explore a run for Hart’s seat.
As to who will fill the role of emcee at the Saint Patrick’s Day breakfast in March, Hart said, “That’s the million dollar question.”
In his absence, Hart said, the microphone may be passed this year to a trio of South Boston politicians — Councilor Bill Linehan, US Representative Stephen F. Lynch, and state Representative Nick Collins — who will take turns warbling and tossing political zingers.