It’s not the same story as Steve “Hot Buns” Gobie undermining the reputation of Congressman Barney Frank. That 1985 scandal involved Gobie’s illegal prostitution activity based in Frank’s apartment, of which the Congressman was ignorant. But it was also a liaison just before the politician’s coming out and it also called into question the public figure’s judgment.
The behavior of incoming Senate President Stan Rosenberg’s domestic partner, 37 years his junior and his former Senate employee, has humiliated this longtime public servant with a reputation for being a serious, hardworking, thoughtful and effective policy-oriented legislator. Ultimately Gobie didn’t bring Frank down, but there was a permanent damage to his reputation. Rosenberg’s assumption of outgoing Senate President Therese Murray’s powerful leadership position may not be doomed, but, in the wake of recent Boston Globe coverage, there are serious questions that need to be answered.
Gossips will have much to say about the 37-year difference between Rosenberg and his mate. The actual years though are far less important than the difference in maturity. At 27, Bryon Hefner seems far more immature than my teenage grandsons. He is said to have been responsible for sending out nasty tweets last spring about outgoing Senate President Therese Murray, likening her to the Wicked Witch of the West and hinting she is alcoholic, and dissing other state officials as well. Worse, he has boasted that he will have influence over Senate policy, including the naming of committee chairmen and staff assignments.
Rosenberg, attempting to defend himself, has sought to reassure colleagues that there would be a “firewall” between his private relationship and his public responsibilities. According to the Boston Globe, Rosenberg learned about the problem “weeks after the tweets” and told Hefner to stop. The timeline here in unclear.
Rosenberg also told Michael Jonas of Commonwealth Magazine, in a story liberally borrowed from by the Globe, that Hefner helped him through a bout with serious skin cancer and also gave him the courage to go public as a gay person. They also bonded initially as products of the state’s foster care system. Now, he says, they are in a committed relationship.
Partners gay and heterosexual alike find each other for all sorts of reasons, and those are irrelevant to the story here. What is relevant is why Hefner felt empowered to do what he did, why Rosenberg didn’t know about Hefner’s misdeeds earlier, what else is out there to blindside the Senate President-in-waiting, and what all this may say about his judgment.
A job was found for Hefner at the public relations firm of George Regan, (as columnist Adrian Walker notes, Regan “has long claimed Murray as a great friend and client), but Hefner’s immature and reckless behavior seems inimical to success there. As for Rosenberg’s future, this mess aside, he seems to be just the kind of individual – judging issues on merit and thoughtful analysis, mediating consensus, being inclusive, quietly making things happen – that state leadership needs. The next steps for him are all about reputation management, rebuilding confidence and restoring his brand. And that won’t happen overnight.
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