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    Senator applies to be Lowell city manager

    State Senator Eileen Donoghue, a Lowell Democrat.
    State Senator Eileen Donoghue, a Lowell Democrat.

    State Senator Eileen Donoghue, a Lowell Democrat, ended weeks of speculation Tuesday, confirming she’s applied to be her hometown’s next city manager — a position for which she’s widely considered the front-runner.

    The City Council is expected to name a replacement for outgoing City Manager Kevin Murphy by April 1, the day he is slated to retire.

    Any decision to tap Donoghue could mark yet another high-profile exit from the state Senate, which this year has already lost Linda Dorcena Forry to a private-sector job at Suffolk Construction Co.

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    Donoghue declined further comment through a spokesman Tuesday, and she did not return messages left on her cellphone. Applicants faced a deadline of Tuesday to submit their interest for the job, after which the City Council will identify finalists.

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    In November, the Globe detailed accusations from four men who alleged that then-Senate president Stanley C. Rosenberg’s husband, Bryon Hefner, had sexually assaulted or harassed them and who said Hefner bragged he could influence Senate business.

    Rosenberg subsequently stepped down as president as the Senate launched an investigation into whether he broke chamber rules. And, soon thereafter, Donoghue and other Democratic senators announced that they wanted the Senate’s top job, should it become open.

    Forry was also among them. But the field still includes Senator Karen E. Spilka, the Senate’s budget chief, as well as Senator Sal DiDomenico, an Everett Democrat who was recently promoted to assistant majority leader. Senator Eric Lesser of Longmeadow and Senator John Keenan of Quincy have also said they’re weighing bids.

    Lowell Mayor William Samaras confirmed Monday that Donoghue had applied for the city manager job but spoke carefully when asked whether she was the council’s leading choice.

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    “Right now she is a candidate. She’s a quality candidate and that’s all I can say at this point,” he said, before continuing: “She’s a quality person. She was one of the main candidates for the president of the Senate. You don’t get that type of acknowledgment unless you have skill and ability.

    “She’s going to [be] a [formidable] candidate,” he later added. “You can’t deny that.”

    Matt Stout can be reached at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.