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Editorial: Rosenberg’s rise in Senate near final step

The dean of the Massachusetts Senate is now in line to become its next president. Sen. Stanley C. Rosenberg of Amherst announced this week he had commitments of support from a majority of his Democratic colleagues to replace Therese Murray, D-Plymouth.

Murray is required by term limits to step down from the presidency in March 2015. She has not announced plans to run for re-election in the fall of 2014.

Civic and political leaders in western Massachusetts were quick to applaud the news that Rosenberg could become the first from our region to hold the top Senate post in 43 years.

Rosenberg has served in the state Legislature for 27 years. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1986 and became a senator in 1990. His district covers Amherst, Northampton, South Hadley, Hadley, Pelham and Hatfield, along with 17 communities in Franklin County and one in Worcester County. He served as Senate president pro tempore, chairman of Ways and Means and has been Senate majority leader since February. The title Dean of the Senate signifies that he is the longest-serving member of that body.

Rosenberg’s election as Senate President, if it comes to pass, would be historic in a number of ways.

Key for our region is that Rosenberg would be the first Senate president from western Massachusetts since Maurice Donahue of Holyoke, who served from 1964 to 1971. It is a job Calvin Coolidge held from the same Senate district from 1914 to 1915.

The 63-year-old Amherst resident would also be the first openly gay president of the Senate.

Clearly, the selection of both Murray, the first woman Senate president, and Rosenberg to top leadership roles reflect the changing makeup of the Legislature.

As University of Massachusetts journalism professor and political observer Ralph Whitehead noted, the Senate has gone from being a “fraternity” of white male legislators from larger, older cities to include more suburban members and women.

“If on Jan. 1 you would have predicted that the next president of the Senate would be an openly gay, Jewish guy from a small college town in the western part of the state, you would have been laughed at — someone would have examined your head,” Whitehead told the Gazette.

The demographic shift may have helped, but Rosenberg’s hard work, ability to listen, build consensus and understand the workings of the upper chamber have earned the deep respect of his colleagues. He’s tackled tough political issues, including redistricting after the 2000 and 2010 census, and those who worked with him liked what they saw.

Having a top state leader certainly engenders pride and a confidence that the interests of the region will not be overlooked. In fact, the values, work ethic and depth of experience Stan Rosenberg would bring to the post bode well for all in the commonwealth.

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