David L Ryan/The Boston Globe
The state Senate voted unanimously Thursday to keep Senator Harriette L. Chandler as its president for the rest of the year, as members said they hope to return to lawmaking after the turmoil surrounding their former leader, Stanley C. Rosenberg.
The vote formalizes the decision Wednesday by Senate Democrats to transition Chandler, an 80-year-old Democrat from Worcester, from acting to permanent president. Her ascent was triggered by sexual assault allegations leveled against Rosenberg’s husband, Bryon Hefner, in November, and Rosenberg’s decision to step down during an internal ethics investigation.
“The trust you have given me today is very meaningful to me,” Chandler told her colleagues after the vote, and a standing ovation. “Hopefully I will use it well and we will get through the session and we will accomplish the business before us. . . . This is a bipartisan issue, as far as I am concerned, that we need to get to work.”
Rosenberg was among the lawmakers who stood to applaud her.
“I’m here to vote for Senator Chandler,” he told reporters during a brief recess before the vote. “I want a Democratic leader for the body, so I felt I had to be here to make sure she would win.”
Chandler has said she would relinquish the presidency on Jan. 2, 2019, when the newly elected Senate will vote for a new leader. Rosenberg declined to answer any other questions from reporters, including whether he planned to seek the Senate presidency in 2019.
Waiting for an elevator with an aide, Rosenberg repeated he had warned reporters he would only answer one question. He stood quietly as reporters continued to call out additional questions.
He spent the session preceding the vote on Chandler sitting in his assigned seat at the back of the auditorium serving as the Senate’s home during the chamber’s renovation. He frequently looked at his phone — a reporter saw him considering Words With Friends at one moment — and chatted with a few colleagues.
Chandler told reporters at the State House she hoped the vote to install her as the permanent president would be good for Democrats as well as Republicans in the Senate. But she acknowledged taking over from her longtime friend Rosenberg was somewhat uncomfortable.
“It’s a funny feeling. No one likes to achieve this — I guess I would call it a pinnacle — under these circumstances,” she said, adding that Rosenberg had reached out to congratulate her.
“And quite frankly, I think he understands that it’s best for the Senate,” she said. “We’re here because we love the Senate and we want to do the business the people elected us to do, and with all these rumors and issues surrounding this, it’s very hard to do that.”
Previously serving as Rosenberg’s top deputy, Chandler became acting president in December, when Rosenberg stepped aside following a Globe report detailing accusations from four men who alleged that his husband had sexually assaulted or harassed them.
Rosenberg’s position became untenable this week, after the Globe reported Hefner had sought to meddle in Senate business.
Specifically, the Globe reported that Hefner had access to Rosenberg’s e-mails, attempted to affect the state budget, and involved himself in the workings of Rosenberg’s office — all of which occurred after Rosenberg had promised a “firewall” between his personal life and Senate business. The story cited interviews with unnamed people who dealt with Hefner, as well as communications reviewed by the newspaper.
Rosenberg has taken issue with that Sunday reporting, saying it included “factual inaccuracies,” although he declined to specify what they were.
The Senate Committee on Ethics is investigating whether Rosenberg broke chamber rules.
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