There’s a new candidate for state Senate president

Katherine Taylor for The Boston Globe/File 2015

State Senator John F. Keenan (right), Democrat of Quincy, is launching a bid to become state Senate president.

By Globe Staff 

State Senator John F. Keenan, a Quincy Democrat, announced Tuesday that he is vying to be Senate President, joining a crowded field that has ebbed and flowed since Senator Stanley C. Rosenberg relinquished the post late last year after allegations about his husband’s behavior.

“In recent days, I have been approached by colleagues for discussions about the future of the Senate and the Senate Presidency,” Keenan said in a statement to the Globe. “Encouraged by the confidence some have already expressed in me, I am prepared to ask my fellow Senators if they would entrust me with this role.”


The 54-year-old said he has a “tremendous respect” for the institution of the Senate and the people who serve there, and “it would be a privilege to lead this body.”

Keenan, who sometimes leans moderate in a frequently liberal chamber, said in a short interview he would “bring a sense of practicality, pragmatism, a willingness to work with all members of the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the governor” to the job.

“If we are to move forward as a state,” he said, “we have to move forward to together, and it’s important that the senate play a role.”

Keenan, a graduate of Harvard College and Suffolk University Law School, was sworn in as senator in 2011, after almost a decade on the Quincy City Council. He also served as executive director of the Norfolk County Retirement System.

Several other Democratic senators have declared their ambitions for the top post. Senators Sal N. DiDomenico of Everett and Karen E. Spilka of Ashland have been angling for their colleagues’ support for weeks. Senator Eric P. Lesser of Longmeadow has also been working to gather support.


But others have given up the dream, at least for now. Linda Dorcena Forry, a Dorchester Democrat who was vying for the seat, left the Senate in January for the private sector.

And Senator Eileen M. Donoghue, a Lowell Democrat who was earlier in the race for the presidency, is eyeing the State House exits for a job in her hometown.

Rosenberg stepped aside as Senate President last year after the Globe detailed accusations from four men who alleged that his husband, Bryon Hefner, had sexually assaulted or harassed them and who said Hefner bragged he could influence Senate business.

Senators elevated Harriette L. Chandler of Worcester, to be acting president as the Senate investigated whether Rosenberg had broken chamber rules. But, this year, the Senate voted to drop the “acting” from Chandler’s title, an attempt in February to end weeks of intense political jockeying that had disrupted policy making on Beacon Hill.

Chandler has said she will relinquish the presidency in early January 2019, when the newly elected Senate will vote for a new Senate president.

That opening has meant the efforts to gain the chamber’s highest post have continued.

“The Senate President has made clear to her colleagues that anyone’s desire to be president should not interfere with the business of the Senate,” said Chandler spokesman Scott Zoback. “Members have largely abided by that request.”

Joshua Miller can be reached at