AMHERST — They’re devastated by Stan Rosenberg’s resignation from the Senate. They laud him as the epitome of a public servant. And if he were to run again, they’d probably vote for him.
Two weeks after the former Senate president resigned following a damning ethics report that said he gave his alleged serial predator husband essentially unfettered access to the Senate, Rosenberg is persona non grata on Beacon Hill. But, in more than a dozen interviews across what was Rosenberg’s district, many of his former constituents said they still back him.
“I feel terribly sorry for Stan,” said Ruth Elcan, a 79-year-old from Pelham who called Rosenberg “modest, unpretentious, conscientious — everything one would like to see in a politician.” And, she said, she’d like to see him run for the Senate again.
Tim Van Egmond, a 67-year-old Montague resident and folk singer and storyteller, said he is sorry to lose Rosenberg as a senator. He said Rosenberg was an innovative and progressive Senate president who had a “blind spot” for his husband and did the “right thing” by resigning.
Still, Van Egmond, an independent voter, continued: “I hope that this isn’t the end of his career in public service.”
Rosenberg had collected enough signatures certified by local elections officials to make the ballot before the Senate Committee on Ethics released its scathing report about him and his conduct related to his husband, Bryon Hefner.
Despite his resignation, Rosenberg could still choose to get on the Sept. 4 Democratic primary ballot — something some supporters have been buzzing about in recent days.
But when asked this week whether he is considering submitting those signatures, Rosenberg replied in a text message: “No.”
“Although I have the largest number of certified signatures in my career to get on the ballot and a recent poll suggests I would comfortably win re-election, it would not be in the best interests of the district I have had the privilege of serving for about [a] quarter of a century or for the Senate as an institution,” he wrote. “I have chosen not to file my papers for re-election.”
Before he announced his resignation, the ethics committee had recommended that Rosenberg be forbidden from holding any leadership position or chairmanship in the Senate through January 2021. And before the ethics committee report came out, Lou DiNatale, a pollster and longtime adviser to Rosenberg, conducted a survey which found Rosenberg still maintained strong and wide support in the district, which is anchored by Northampton and Amherst, DiNatale said.
Just one candidate, Chelsea Kline of Northampton, is set to appear on the primary ballot, though other hopefuls are running write-in campaigns.
The Senate Committee on Ethics investigation was prompted by a Boston Globe story in November that detailed allegations from four men who said Hefner had sexually assaulted and harassed them and bragged he could influence Senate business.
In April in Suffolk Superior Court, Hefner pleaded not guilty to five counts of sexual assault, four counts of distributing nude images without consent, and one count of criminal lewdness.
Rosenberg has maintained — and the Senate investigation found no evidence to contradict — that he had not known about any of Hefner’s alleged sexual assaults. The outside law firm that investigated for the Senate also found Rosenberg did not break any chamber rules.
But it presented a voluminous case that Rosenberg knew or should have known that Hefner racially and sexually harassed Senate employees, and that Rosenberg failed to address those issues adequately.
After the report came out, Rosenberg faced immense pressure from the Massachusetts political establishment to step down, with calls for his resignation coming from the Democratic attorney general, the Republican governor, and several Democratic senators. Many expressed relief when his resignation took effect on May 4.
Former Rosenberg constituents expressed familiarity with the investigation into Rosenberg, 68, and the alleged actions of his estranged 30-year-old husband.
“As for the merits of the case, young guy is a sleazeball. Stan let him get away with too much,” said John Danielson, a 75-year-old Amherst resident and independent voter, who was one of the only former Rosenberg constituents the Globe spoke with who was uncomfortable with the idea of Rosenberg returning to office.
Rich Michelson, a 64-year-old Amherst resident and progressive-leaning voter, said Rosenberg worked hard for the district, is a “great guy,” and he was sorry to see him go.
“The way things are now, he had to set an example,” Michelson said. “Problem is, it’s always the good guys setting an example and the bad guys who stay.”
Marie Silver, a 60-year-old Northampton resident, said Rosenberg made “a lot of mistakes” but was “unfairly punished.”
Rosenberg did “amazing things” for the district and worked hard for the causes she most believes in, she said.
Coming out of a Stop & Shop in Hadley, Silver stated with conviction: “I would vote for him again.”Joshua Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.