State Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg says he’s not going anywhere. Not to the University of Massachusetts Boston, nor to any of the other rumored landing spots swirling around the second-term president. Stan’s staying, he says.
But that hasn’t stopped a nascent bloc of Rosenberg’s Senate underlings from preparing for his eventual departure. According to a half-dozen Beacon Hill sources, about a dozen senators have formed a loose group not united behind a single chosen successor — but instead hoping to steer the body in the event of the Senate president’s departure.
The faction, which includes most of the Senate’s Boston delegation, has taken pains not to appear disloyal to Rosenberg, insisting that theirs is more of an in-case-of-emergency-break-glass effort than one to pressure him toward the exits. And the conversations were mostly subterranean, unbeknownst even to several other senators.
“Multiple senators have had conversations based on a thread of rumors coming from outside into the State House,” said Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, adding that each of the senators involved backs Rosenberg’s presidency. “The senators obviously were concerned about a leadership position being handed off to someone else. . . . Senators want to be sure that everyone will have a say when the time comes.”
The quiet machinations roiled the tight-knit Senate last week and over the weekend.
“A group of senators is getting together in case that happens three weeks, three months, or three years from now,” said one veteran Democratic Senate aide, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the maneuvering.
Rosenberg, for his part, said he’s sticking around through 2022.
“I have not been and will not be a candidate for the position of UMass Boston chancellor, period,” he said in a message sent by an aide. “I love my [j]ob and will be serving out my full term.”
Whenever he does step down, Senate Ways and Means chairwoman Karen Spilka, an Ashland Democrat and Rosenberg ally, has been the perceived front-runner to take the top post.
But some of the Senate’s 32 Democrats (there are six Republicans and two vacant seats) are dissatisfied with the prospect of a coronation — of Spilka or anyone else, multiple Senate sources said.
Forry of Dorchester and Senator Michael Rush of West Roxbury — who hail from opposite ends of the chamber’s Democratic ideological spectrum — have been among those in the vanguard, along with Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives of Newburyport, people involved in the effort said. Through a series of phone calls, one-on-one conversations, and back channels, the group believes it has a loose coalition of at least 10 colleagues, two people familiar with the lists said.
“Stan isn’t going anywhere, and that’s my complete understanding,” O’Connor Ives said, reiterating Dorcena Forry’s notes of support for Rosenberg. “He’s got plenty of work to do and he’s here to stay. But there’s nothing wrong with asserting that, in the future, after Stan decides to move on after he finishes his term, that people have to ask for my vote for the next Senate president.”
She added, “It’s really about folks that are not wanting to be walked into a particular situation. It’s not lining up votes for a particular person, it’s folks wanting to be on the record as not committed to any particular candidate for any future Senate presidency.”
Even within that faction lie competing agendas, some eager to maintain the bloc’s avoidance of getting behind any one candidate, others eyeing the prospect of pushing for even more members and toward a majority of the Democratic caucus.
The turmoil comes at a particularly sensitive moment for some senators, with Spilka embroiled in complicated budget negotiations with the House.
Rosenberg’s top allies said they were unaware of any maneuvering and called it far too early.
“I think it’s premature for anybody to be making phone calls for anything,” Spilka said, adding that she was “100 percent behind” Rosenberg. “I think it’s many, many years premature.”
Senate majority leader Harriette Chandler, a Worcester Democrat, said, “They really need to know that there is nothing to jockey about. If there’s jockeying, it’s a waste of time.”
Rosenberg took the gavel in early 2015 via a relatively bloodless battle with then-Ways and Means chairman Stephen Brewer, succeeding Therese Murray, who became president in 2007 in a virtual coronation. A vast majority of the chamber’s denizens have never participated in a true Senate presidency fight, which can grow acrimonious and leave lasting ruptures among members.
Such legislative leadership contests are notoriously close-mouthed affairs, with members loath to discuss the often sensitive, personal lobbying among colleagues.
“I got nothing to say, on the record or off the record,” one senator said Friday.