STATE HOUSE, BOSTON — Could there be a fifth Democrat in the running for Senate president in 2019?

The current Senate President Harriette Chandler seems to think so, but Assistant Majority Leader Mark Montigny, of New Bedford, firmly declared himself "not a candidate," before allowing that he would not be totally closed off to the idea if the opportunity presented itself.

"I think he is open to the idea if the right circumstances present," Chandler told a few reporters after Thursday's session, speaking of Montigny. She then declined to elaborate on why she believed the New Bedford Democrat was interested, saying, "You're going to have to talk to him."

Montigny, who was in his office after voting for the day had ended, a copy of the Wall Street Journal tucked under his arm, declined to comment at first, saying he was "not a candidate." But he then listened to the audio of Chandler discussing his openness, and elaborated.

"I can say this, as I said yesterday in the caucus, and it's the only thing I'll say, I've not asked one person for a vote. End of story. I think the Senate needs to be put back together," he said.

Senators on Thursday dropped the "acting" from Chandler's title and unanimously agreed to make Chandler the Senate president for the rest of 2018, a move intended to ensure stability amid a turbulent period marked by an investigation into Sen. Stan Rosenberg, the former Senate president, and interest in the permanent president's post from four other senators.

Sens. Sal DiDomenico of Everett, Eileen Donoghue of Lowell, Eric Lesser of Longmeadow, and Karen Spilka of Ashland have previously expressed their interest in the presidency.

While others interested in the Senate presidency in 2019 have been busy in recent weeks jockeying for support among their colleagues, Montigny said the only thing he has done is field calls from colleagues urging him to consider throwing his hat in the race.

"There have been lots of people calling and lining up votes, despite making agreements that the process would be respected. I'm not one of those. I have fielded calls from people who have certainly entertained that, and I said the same thing that I just said to you to every one of them: I care about the future of the Senate. I certainly will stand responsibly in the current position I have. I wouldn't say unequivocally that I wouldn't stand for it, but it's just not some raw ambition of mine, or I would tell you on the record and would have called every member to tell them the same," Montigny said.

Chandler appeared to inadvertently plant the seed of the Montigny candidacy as she was talking with a few reporters after Thursday's session about whether she would consider the four declared candidates for president as she looks to fill the vacant majority leader post.

"I don't know. They all have very important jobs, as far as I'm concerned. My chair and my vice chair of Ways and Means, and my Steering and Policy chair...there are five people actually... my Rules chair, and the fifth, I guess, is Sen. Lesser," Chandler said.

In addition to his assistant majority leader title, Montigny also chairs the Senate Rule Committee.

Montigny said he has not done anything, in his mind, to fuel speculation on his interest in the Senate presidency, nor has he asked any of his colleagues to put out feelers on his behalf. "I don't really do the dance," he said.

Montigny said he fully supported the decision by Democrats made Wednesday to make Chandler the president for the remainder of 2018.

"The reason we took the action yesterday was so we could actually do business," he said. "We have a lot of legislation. Of course, as Rules chair I have not only control of a lot of that, but the responsibility for it, and that's what I'm focused on. And we have a budget to do," Montigny said.

Chandler said she hoped by next week to choose a colleague to serve as majority leader, the position she held under the leadership hierarchy of Rosenberg.

"There's no reason why I should be holding on. I mean, we've got to get going here," Chandler said, suggesting the Senate was interested in moving more legislation.

She said she hadn't thought about not naming a potential presidency aspirant as majority leader, but agreed it was "a point" to consider when a reporter raised it.

Asked about changes she might make in the Senate, Chandler said, "I really want to just get moving and if you make too many changes you can't stay on track ... I'm not looking to change everything around."

--Matt Murphy and Michael P. Norton, State House News Service