Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler, the Worcester Democrat who senators relied on as a steady hand on the institutional rudder in 2017, will not seek reelection this year after more than three decades of public service, she announced Wednesday morning.
Described by a colleague as "universally respected," Chandler has spent her 25 years on Beacon Hill deeply involved in health and dental care policy as well as educational issues. She was first elected to the House in 1995 and in 2001 became the first woman elected to represent Worcester in the Massachusetts Senate.
"A year from now, a new person will hold the immense and humbling responsibility of representing the First Worcester District in the Massachusetts State Senate. My work is not yet done ... I have a robust legislative agenda that includes investing in Regional Transit, protecting student borrowers, expanding access to healthcare for seniors, and so much more that I want to accomplish in the remainder of this legislative session," the senator, who would be 85 when the next legislative session begins, said during a press conference at Worcester City Hall. "Until a new person is sworn-in to this office, I remain the senator and will fight for this community to ensure an equitable pandemic recovery and to direct investment and innovation to Central Massachusetts."
Late in 2017, Chandler became the second woman chosen to serve as president of the Massachusetts Senate after senators spent a day in closed-door talks on how the institution should forge ahead as an ethics probe of President Stanley Rosenberg's office borne out of sexual misconduct allegations advanced.
"There's broad consensus, I think, that Harlee Chandler is our person," Sen. Eric Lesser said that night, referring to Chandler by her nickname. "She's the majority leader, she's universally respected."
Chandler's exit will open a Senate race in an area where Republicans have had some success over the years. Democrat Rep. David LeBoeuf of Worcester said within minutes of Chandler's announcement that he is "seriously considering running" for the Senate seat.