Rosenberg backs away from staffer tweet about ‘real Democrats’

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STATE HOUSE — Senate President Stanley Rosenberg distanced himself Wednesday afternoon from a comment made by his chief communications advisor on Twitter that seemed to call out Democrats who support charter school expansion for not being “real Democrats.”

The Democratic State Committee voted Tuesday night by acclamation to oppose a November ballot question that would greatly expand charter schools in Massachusetts. The issue has been one that has divided Democrats and the Legislature’s two branches over the years, prompting charter school proponents to take their case straight to the voters.

“This just in: Democrats in Massachusetts turn out to be real Democrats after all, vote to oppose increasing charter schools,” Rosenberg’s communications director Mara Dolan tweeted just before 6 a.m.

Rosenberg, who was in Springfield on Wednesday for an event at the UMass Center, said the comment did not reflect his views toward his fellow Democrats, including some elected senators within his own caucus and on his senior leadership team that support the ballot question.

“I’m glad that the Democratic State Committee took a position that’s consistent with the Democratic Party platform,” Rosenberg told the News Service. Asked again about Dolan’s tweet, Rosenberg said, “She spoke for herself, not for me.”

Dolan sent the message from her personal Twitter account that describes her as “Communications Director for Mass Senate President Stan Rosenberg @senstan, lawyer, and Grace’s Mama.” The bio also includes a disclaimer: “Tweets are my own.”

Still, in the age of social media it can often be difficult for people in public life to disassociate personal from professional online personas. Dolan’s feed is also full of repostings of messages sent out by Rosenberg himself and promotion of votes and positions taken by the Senate and its leadership.

Dolan, who once ran for the Senate herself, declined to comment when asked about the tweet, and another spokesperson for Rosenberg would not discuss whether the president had addressed the comment with Dolan. Several House and Senate officials on Wednesday, however, acknowledged that the tweet had raised eyebrows within the building.

After a House-approved charter expansion bill failed to clear the Senate in 2014, senators this year passed legislation titled “The Rise Act” that sought to tie a modest charter cap increases to major new investments in local education of more than $200 million a year.

Critics of bill noted that the Senate provided no way to pay for additional investments, and even at the time of its passage supportive senators acknowledged that their opening position was unlikely to lead to compromise with the House, which is also controlled by Democrats, but home to more lawmakers supportive of charter schools.

The House never debated a charter school bill this session.

Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican who strongly supports the ballot question, told reporters that he wants to make sure every parent in Massachusetts has the choice that he had to be able to send their children to the best school possible to set them up for success later in life.

“I find it disappointing that the Democratic Party, which I believe is full of a lot of people who believe in equal opportunity and giving everybody a chance, would choose to be against something that is so important, especially to working class families in underperforming school districts. They deserve better and they deserve a yes vote on Nov. 8,” Baker said.

— Written by Matt Murphy

Copyright State House News Service