December 27, 2017

Chandler eyes 2018 Senate agenda that moves past scandal

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Sam Doran / State House News Service

Sen. Harriette L. Chandler, acting Senate president

There are four people in the mix so far to become the next leader of the state Senate, not counting Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, and acting Senate President Harriette Chandler expects that field to grow.

“This is only the beginning,” Chandler, D-Worcester, said on an episode of WCVB’s “On the Record” that aired Sunday. “I believe that before we’re through we’ll see more than the four that have already thrown their hat in the ring.”

Sens. Linda Dorcena Forry of Dorchester, Eileen Donoghue of Lowell, Karen Spilka of Ashland and Sal DiDomenico of Everett have expressed interest in seeking the presidency, a post newly filled by Chandler while an investigation proceeds into former Senate President Stanley Rosenberg.

The probe, led by attorneys from the firm Hogan Lovells, will explore whether Rosenberg violated any Senate rules in connection with allegations that his husband, Bryon Hefner, sexually assaulted men with business on Beacon Hill and claimed to hold sway over the Senate.

Chandler, who turned 80 on Dec. 20, reiterated that she does not plan to seek the presidency on a permanent basis, saying, “I do not want that.”

“It’s an enormous amount of work, it’s an enormous amount of responsibility,” she said. “It’s not the work, I’ve always worked hard. It’s the responsibility. You’re running a very venerable chamber, and I am not 20 years old, as you all know. The world knows it.”

She said she doesn’t “think it makes any difference” if the next Senate president is a man or a woman, but said she always welcomes more women getting involved in politics.

On the investigation into Rosenberg, Chandler declined to give a timeline for its completion or speculate as to whether Rosenberg would be able to return as president afterward.

“We’re not whitewashing anything,” Chandler said. “We’re trying to be transparent.”

Asked by co-host Janet Wu if she worried about “more allegations being made public” about House or Senate lawmakers, Chandler said, “I’ve heard the same rumors that everyone has heard.”

“I don’t know anything more than anybody else knows, but quite frankly the world is walking around on tiptoes, on eggshells right now, because we’re in a conversation across the country on the whole issue of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and it’s really talking about power,” she said. “Men, women, power, and that’s where we seem to be as a country right now.”

Looking ahead to 2018, Chandler said senators want to move forward and hope to see “a lot of legislation starting to move, very quickly we hope, in January.”

“We have education ahead of us, we have housing, a very important issue because we’re so short on housing in Massachusetts,” she said. “We have a lot of legislation to get through and we need the governor to work with us, we need the House to work with us, and we need to work together.”

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