Northampton mayor's bid to hasten race for Rosenberg seat fizzles
Senate President Harriette Chandler told Mayor David Narkewicz over the weekend that the Senate will not consider "an unprecedented legislative exception to our state election laws," according to the mayor.
Rosenberg's resignation on Friday means Northampton and Hatfield — which had also been represented by the late Rep. Peter Kocot — will be without elected representation on Beacon Hill until January. Representatives and senators sometimes leave office early, for a variety of reasons, but it's rare that any city or town would go without representation in both chambers for an extended period.
Democrat Chelsea Kline, who in March announced her plans to challenge Rosenberg, met the May 1 signature filing deadline, qualifying her to appear on the Sept. 4 primary election ballot.
After Rosenberg announced his resignation on Thursday, Narkewicz asked that lawmakers consider giving potential candidates until mid-May to file signatures "so that we can have a full and robust debate about the needs and future of its 24 cities and towns."
Narkewicz said in a statement Monday that he spoke with Chandler on Sunday and was told that the Senate will not consider the change because candidates can still get on the ballot by running write-in campaigns and because of Chandler's "concerns about setting precedent."
"While I remain troubled by the timing of events on Beacon Hill that have left our district with an uncontested ballot, I respectfully accept President Chandler's decision that no extension of the nomination papers deadline extension (sic) for the September 4, 2018 primary ballot will be considered by the State Senate," Narkewicz said.
A Chandler aide told the News Service the mayor's statement accurately characterized the Senate president's thoughts.
Western Massachusetts Sens. Adam Hinds, Eric Lesser, Anne Gobi and Donald Humason have said they plan to advocate for Rosenberg's district during the Senate budget process and through the end of the legislative session.
During an interview Friday on WBUR, Kline said she understood that the Legislature did not plan to alter the election deadlines. "But I will say that anyone who's thinking of running, I mean the water is fine," she added.
Northampton City Council President Ryan O'Donnell announced Monday that he now plans to seek Rosenberg's former Senate seat, not Kocot's House seat as he had announced in March.
"Since then, the field of candidates for this House district has grown to include three other people. In contrast, there are currently no choices for our State Senate district," O'Donnell wrote in a statement on his website without mentioning that Kline has already secured a spot on the Democratic primary ballot.
A Democrat who will now have to coordinate a write-in campaign for the Senate seat, O'Donnell said he "never thought of challenging" Rosenberg because he was "a longtime admirer of Stan Rosenberg's legislative efforts."
He said he shares "the concern of many others that this is too important a post to fill without democratic debate." O'Donnell, who was first elected to the City Council in 2013, said he thinks he is the best candidate because he will be ready to hit the ground running if elected.
"Given the tremendous loss of representation our region has suffered in recent months, I believe we need someone with practical political experience who is ready to represent us on day one," he wrote.
Rosenberg had signaled his plans to seek re-election prior to the release of the Ethics Committee report that led to his resignation.
While he did not address a re-election bid in his resignation statement, Rosenberg did he resigned because "it would not be fair to my constituents to have a representative who lacked the authority to represent their interests fully."
Senators last week agreed with the Senate Ethics Committee report compiled by the law firm Hogan Lovells that cited Rosenberg's failed leadership and judgment.
In her WBUR interview, host Bob Oakes asked Kline whether Rosenberg made the right move by resigning.
"I'm still processing," Kline said. "He's done a lot of really great things for Western Massachusetts and there was a lot of awful things in that report. I do think that Western Mass. voters really understand the complexity here. But he's left an incredible legacy, but he also made some serious mistakes and I don't think that one really washes away the other."
In a statement after Rosenberg's resignation last week, Kline said, "I want to thank Senator Rosenberg for making the right decision for survivors, for the Senate, and for the district in stepping down today. Senator Rosenberg leaves an impressive progressive legacy that has improved lives throughout Massachusetts. In stepping down, Senator Rosenberg makes room for survivors, for the district, and for the progressive movement to move forward and to move on."
Asked Friday by host Bob Oakes if she worries about voter backlash from voters who might see her as "kicking him while he's down" because she launched her run for office while he was under investigation.
"I don't see it that way at all," Kline said. "In fact, he and I met a couple of weeks ago and we had a drink together and we laughed because we agreed on all of the issues and we realized that our debates would be relatively boring. So I really see myself as working to continue his legacy and continue to do good things for western Massachusetts."
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