Karen Spilka says she has backing to be next Mass. Senate leader

State Sen. Karen Spilka

BOSTON (AP) — Democratic state Sen. Karen Spilka said Wednesday she has secured commitments from enough of her colleagues to become the next president of the Massachusetts Senate.

The announcement appears to help close out a period of uncertain leadership in the Senate after Democratic Sen. Stan Rosenberg stepped down from the leadership post in December.

“Senators have made clear that they want certainty in leadership to allow us to focus solely on the vitally important work to be done on behalf of the people at this time,” Spilka said. “It’s time to turn the page and usher in a new era of collaborative leadership in the Senate.”

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Spilka, who is from Ashland and chairs the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said she’s “deeply honored” by the support of other Democratic senators and looks forward to working with the current Senate President, Democrat Harriette Chandler of Worcester, on a “smooth transition” of power.

Chandler reiterated her intention to serve as president only through the remainder of this year. She said she spoke with Spilka and congratulated her on winning the support of enough senators to succeed her.

“I look forward to serving as president for the remainder of this session, working through our legislative priorities, and ensuring a smooth transition to Senator Spilka for the 2019 session,” Chandler said.

Spilka was able to break away from a pack of other would-be candidates for Senate president, one of the most powerful positions in state government, including fellow Democrats Sal DiDomenico of Everett, Eric Lesser of Longmeadow, and Eileen Donoghue of Lowell, now in the running to become Lowell’s first female city manager.

Rosenberg’s decision to relinquish the presidency, initially described as temporary, came after The Boston Globe reported on allegations that his husband, Bryon Hefner, sexually harassed or abused several men, some of whom had business before the Legislature. The Senate Ethics Committee later hired a Boston law firm to investigate whether Rosenberg violated any Senate rules in connection with the allegations against Hefner.

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Prospects for a return by Rosenberg as senate president had seemed increasingly unlikely in recent weeks, and Wednesday’s announcement appeared to end that possibility. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Spilka was first elected to the state House in a special election in the fall of 2001. She served three years there before her election to the Senate.

In January 2005, she was sworn in as the senator for the 2nd Middlesex and Norfolk district, which includes Ashland, Framingham, Franklin, Holliston, Hopkinton, Medway and Natick.

In 2015, Rosenberg appointed Spilka to serve as chair of the Ways and Means Committee, which is responsible for drafting the Senate version of the state’s $40 billion budget.