New candidate for state Senate president emerges
As Senate Democrats prepare for a tense, closed-door meeting Wednesday amid a leadership crisis, a second-term lawmaker from Western Massachusetts has emerged as the latest potential candidate for Senate president — a post that Senator Stanley C. Rosenberg relinquished late last year after allegations about his husband’s behavior.
State Senator Eric P. Lesser, 32, of Longmeadow, is pulling together a politically and geographically diverse faction of other relatively new faces to the Senate, according to one of his Democratic colleagues who is part of the coalition.
“I would feel very confident backing Eric as Senate president,’’ said Senator Anne M. Gobi of Spencer. “He would be great as well as a fresh face for the Senate.”
She declined to name others who are also behind electing Lesser. But she said he represented a “fresh set of eyes” and would be able to lead the Senate into a new era.
“He is very sensible, and he is someone who can absolutely cross not only internal party division lines but also partisan lines,’’ Gobi said.
Lesser, who came to the Senate in 2015 fresh from Harvard Law School and top positions in the Obama White House, declined to comment about his moves.
Already over the weekend Senators Sal N. DiDomenico of Everett and Karen E. Spilka of Ashland, were reaching out to colleagues in efforts to lock down support for their bids to become Senate president, according to people familiar with the efforts. Senator Eileen M. Donoghue of Lowell said in December she would seek the Senate’s top job, should it open.
But none of the contenders seem to have put together a solid majority of 16 Democrats out of the 31-member caucus.
“There’s been some conversation: Are Sal and Karen really the only two choices?” said another Democratic state senator, who requested anonymity to keep his or her options open. “I think that’s given some other folks room to put their hat in the ring, like Eric.”
The senator said Lesser’s strengths include energy, youth, and professionalism — and his previous experience in national politics. “There’s a desire among senators to put some more big wins on the board for the Legislature, and the thought is that he might be able to do that.”
One question that has roiled presidential machinations is how long acting Senate President Harriette L. Chandler will remain in the post.
The 80-year-old Worcester Democrat was elected to the presidency in December when Rosenberg temporarily stepped aside after allegations against his husband, Bryon Hefner.
In November, The Boston Globe detailed accusations from four unnamed men who alleged that Hefner had sexually assaulted or harassed them and who said that Hefner bragged he could influence Senate business. Though three of the alleged incidents took place when Rosenberg was just feet away, the Globe found no evidence that he knew about the assaults.
Rosenberg left the leadership position as a Senate committee investigates whether he broke Senate rules.
Meanwhile, the Globe reported over the weekend that Hefner had access to Rosenberg’s e-mails, tried to affect the state budget, and involved himself in the workings of Rosenberg’s office, and in Senate affairs — all after Rosenberg had promised a “firewall” between his personal life and legislative business.
Gobi said she would like to see a decision on Senate leadership soon. “I am not one who thinks we should drag this out,’’ Gobi said. “I don’t want to wait for the Globe to come out with another article that stabs our colleague in the heart.”