Editorial: Unusual political developments

  • The Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

We commend area legislators for their nonpartisan show of support of residents in the Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester District who were left without a state senator when Stanley Rosenberg resigned Friday.

Democrats Adam Hinds, of Pittsfield, Eric Lesser, of Longmeadow, and Anne Gobi, of Spencer, and Republican Donald Humason Jr., of Westfield, issued a statement promising to advocate in the Senate for the priorities of Rosenberg’s former constituents.

“We will work collectively to advance your agenda and protect your interests for the remainder of this legislative session,” they said. “It is the right thing to do for western Massachusetts and to keep our region strong.”

They were echoed by Senate President Harriette Chandler, D-Worcester, who said, “As Senate president, I add my voice to theirs, and pledge to work with my colleagues in local, state and federal government to advocate for the issues vital to this western Massachusetts district.”

With nearly three months left in the formal legislative session which ends July 31, and eight months before Rosenberg’s successor takes office in January, that is reassuring to local officials and residents in the 24 communities that make up the Senate district.

Rosenberg had represented the Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester District since 1991, and was Senate president for three years before he left that post in December after sexual misconduct charges were brought against his now-estranged husband, Bryon Hefner.

Rosenberg announced he was leaving the Senate the day after the release of a Senate Ethics Committee report concluding that he had demonstrated a “significant failure of judgment and leadership that … undermined the integrity of the Senate and had destructive consequences for the Senate and the people with business before it.”

Although Rosenberg’s former staff will remain available to handle constituent services, they cannot file legislation, home rule petitions or amendments, nor can they participate in Senate debate or roll call votes.

Among the critical issues still to be resolved during this session is the state budget for the year beginning July 1. Rosenberg’s former constituents also will rely on Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, to represent their interests. As vice chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Kulik will participate in the final budget negotiations by legislators, and last week he pledged to “make sure Stan’s district’s priorities are covered.”

Rosenberg’s resignation is especially challenging for officials and residents in Northampton and Hatfield. Those communities are completely without legislative representation because 1st Hampshire District Rep. Peter Kocot, of Northampton, died Feb. 22.

We expect that the four senators, Kulik and the two other state representatives who live in Hampshire County — John Scibak, of South Hadley, and Solomon Goldstein-Rose, of Amherst — will pay particular attention to the legislative needs of Northampton and Hatfield during the remainder of 2018.

Meanwhile, Rosenberg’s resignation has altered the political dynamics in both districts with vacant seats. On Monday, two of the four declared Democratic candidates for the state representative seat — Northampton City Council President Ryan O’Donnell and Central Hampshire Veterans’ Services director Steven Connor — announced that they instead will mount write-in campaigns in the larger Senate district.

That leaves Lindsay Sabadosa, of Northampton, who works as a self-employed translator of legal/financial documents, and Diana Szynal, of Hatfield, Kocot’s longtime district director, as the two remaining 1st Hampshire District candidates on the Sept. 4 Democratic primary ballot.

The state Senate contest is complicated by the fact that Rosenberg announced his resignation after the May 1 deadline for submitting nomination papers to registrars of voters for certifying signatures. Activist and educator Chelsea Kline, a Northampton Democrat, is the only candidate to meet that deadline who will appear on the state primary ballot.

The signatures collected by O’Donnell and Connor to run for state representative cannot be transferred to the Senate race. Instead, they must convince voters to write their names — or use prepared stickers bearing their names — on the ballot.

We welcome the competition for a Senate seat that has been held for a total of 45 years by career politicians Rosenberg and John Olver, both of Amherst.

Connor, Kline and O’Donnell all have strong credentials and a good understanding of the issues in the Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester District — and we look forward to a vigorous, thoughtful campaign during the next four months.