ICYMI: "Now It's Crazy Time Again" - Lowell Sun's Lucas Recaps Dems' Recent Chaos

BOSTON -- Senate Democrats are having a hard time moving past the chaos created by two FBI investigations into their leaders' corruption, according to a new column from Peter Lucas in The Sun. The column follows last week's awkward press conference where the Senate President walked out when the questions turned to the transition of power.

Mass. Senate takes politics to the loco level
By Peter Lucas

Well, this is weird.

Here you have three politicians all scheming to grab the same job, that of president of the Massachusetts State Senate.

* You have current Senate President Harriette Chandler, 80, of Worcester, who has the job.

* You have Senate President-elect Karen Spilka, 65, of Ashland, who wants the job.

* And you have former Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, 69, of Amherst, who had the job, and wants it back.

The three progressive Democrats are (or were) friends. All have bought into Rosenberg's concept of "shared leadership," except of course when it comes to who is running the Senate.

Still, the three were once allies rather than competitors.

As a matter of fact, when Rosenberg was elected Senate president in 2015 he named Chandler as his majority leader and Spilka chair of the powerful Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Now Spilka is paying Rosenberg back by insuring that he will never return to the luxurious and grand third floor president's office, but will remain in the spartan quarters in the Statehouse basement where he was banished after stepping aside as Senate president.

Rosenberg "temporarily" stepped aside as president in December when the Senate Ethics Committee opened an investigation into whether he and the Senate were compromised because of sexual harassment allegations lodged against his husband Bryon Hefner.

Senate Democrats, who control the body, persuaded Chandler, 80, a refined and well- respected veteran legislator, to take over as Senate president and finish out the remaining year of Rosenberg's two-year term. The president is elected every two years.

It is not that Chandler needed or wanted the job, but she graciously stepped up to the plate to return stability to the Senate following the turmoil in the wake of Rosenberg's departure from his leadership position.

Upon assuming the office, Chandler made it known she would not seek re-election to the job. Meanwhile, she proposed that ambitious senators refrain from campaigning for the job until the 2018 session of the Legislature came to an end.

Senators all seemed to agree. But then former Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry of Dorchester, a leading candidate for the job, resigned to take a position in the private sector.

And Sen. Eileen Donoghue, another leading candidate, took herself out of the running when she applied for the city manager's job in her home city of Lowell, which she is expected to get.

So, the field was cleared for Spilka, a seven-term member, who could not resist the temptation of rounding up enough votes to get the job and all the power and perks that go with it.

She said so at an unusual press conference Thursday where she announced she had enough votes to become the next Senate president, and then talked about continuing Rosenberg's idea of "shared leadership" that empowers every member.

She made those remarks as Chandler, the woman she was throwing under the bus, stood beside her looking a bit dazed. Rosenberg, lost in the crowd, wanely looked on.

Spilka was asked when she wanted the vote taken to replace Chandler, now or in January, when Chandler's term ends, and the 2019 legislative session begins.

She answered by saying she hadn't made up her mind but would talk with colleagues about it.

Rising from under the bus to which she had just been thrown, the feisty Chandler said, "I think this would not be the best time to transfer any kind of power.

"I think the point is she has the votes," Chandler said. "We know there is a great deal of certainty here now. There's not the uncertainty you've seen before. So, my hope is that we will continue to go along as we are."

Did Spilka agree with Chandler's timeline?

She replied, "Again we will discuss the respectful smooth transition. This is something that I think all of our members need to be a part of."

Translated this means that Spilka wants the job now and is seeking to force Chandler out, either by resignation or hitting her with the bus again.

"There is no decency in any of this," one top Statehouse observer said. "You just don't push her out. That is no way to treat a lady."

Spilka has shattered the brief period of relative order and calmness that Chandler brought to the Senate. Now it is crazy time again.

"All politics is local," the late U.S. House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill was fond of saying.

In the Massachusetts Senate, however, it is more apt to say, "All politics is loco."