Stan Rosenberg’s Primary Opponent Says She’d Build on Former Senate President’s Legacy

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By Katie Lannan
State House News Service

A Northampton Democrat hoping to unseat one of the Senate’s longest-serving lawmakers — its former president — plans to make her case by touting her local ties and a fresh perspective.

Chelsea Kline, 40, announced on recently that she would mount a primary challenge against Amherst Democrat Senator Stan Rosenberg, who has served in the Massachusetts Senate since 1991 and stepped down as president last December amid investigations into sexual assault allegations against his civil-law husband.

“I have been keeping an ear to the ground about this district and what people are looking for and what people want, and I really respect the work that Stan Rosenberg has done over the past 27 years, but I believe that people deserve more, and I think it’s time for a fresh, energetic approach,” Kline told State House News Service.

Kline said she wants to give back to her community, “rebuild our social safety net,” and “make sure Western Massachusetts won’t keep being ignored by Beacon Hill.” Rather than highlighting policy differences with Rosenberg, she said she wants to keep “building on what he’s done” and making the district stronger.

Chelsea Kline

Rosenberg, 68, had $452,111.81 in his campaign account at the end of last year, and has not faced a primary opponent since he was elected to the Senate in a 1991 special election.

He won his last race, against Republican Donald Peltier in 2016, with nearly 82 percent of the vote. Peltier, of South Hadley, last week switched his campaign account to run for the Second Hampshire House seat now held by state Representative John Scibak (D-South Hadley), who is not seeking reelection.

Rosenberg, in a statement, said, “Competition is good for democracy. It’s good when voters have a choice. I look forward to running on my record.”

Rosenberg’s civil-law husband, Bryon Hefner, was indicted March 29 on five sexual assault charges, criminal lewdness, and distribution of nude photos without consent, and Kline said at the time that she believed the survivors. The Senate Ethics Committee brought on a team of attorneys from the firm Hogan Lovells that has been investigating whether Rosenberg broke any Senate rules in connection with the assault allegations and with claims Hefner meddled in Senate business.

Kline did not directly answer when asked if the Hefner allegations influenced her decision to run. “I will say that I believe survivors, and I believe that true leaders protect people who are hurting,” she said.

Asked about her strategy to defeat a long-term incumbent, Kline said, “The fact that I live here, the act that I’m raising kids here, the fact that I own a home here and the fact that I am that fresh, energetic approach that people are looking for.”

Kline said she plans to highlight her personal story as she talks to voters. She said she moved to Northampton about 17 years ago, then a young single mom in search of health care for her own mother, who was undergoing cancer treatment.

Now a mother of three, Kline holds a series of leadership roles at Bay Path University, where she works primarily with adult nontraditional students, and serves on the Hampshire and Franklin County Commission on the Status of Women and Girls.

She is a graduate of Smith College and Harvard Divinity School, and lives in Northampton with her husband, Greg.