But there is a sense, too, that after steering the body through a productive five years, and turbulence that might have crushed a less steely leader, Murray is now taking the Senate into a three-year swan song.
Conversations with lawmakers and staffers, as well as outside observers, suggest a State Senate with little current activity or forward-looking agenda, split between a dwindling cadre of veterans of dubious leadership potential and a host of bright newcomers still learning the ropes.
Taken together, that looks like the ingredients for a quiet period ahead. Add to it Governor Deval Patrick's lame-duck status, DeLeo's cautious control over a much-divided House, the ongoing pall of the probation scandal and other investigations, and the coming battle for the open governor's office, and there's good reason to expect little out of Beacon Hill for a while.
The laundry list of legislative accomplishments in Murray's tenure — ranging from landmark environmental laws to keeping same-sex marriage off the ballot — is impressive. One of her final remaining priorities, casinos, passed last year.
And to be fair, the Senate has not been entirely silent this year. A recently passed government-reorganization bill, for example, was a sizable accomplishment that received little attention. There is also talk of a jobs bill under development; it could surface before the end of the session.
But most observers, and even senators, agree that there's not much action. A case in point: the dire financial predicament of the MBTA. Senate Democrats could easily have sought bold solutions — after all, they hold a 36-4 majority, none of whom are in serious danger of losing re-election. But instead they joined the House in a stop-gap measure that kicks the can one year down the road.
When asked what priorities Murray might set for the next two-year session, nobody has an answer. (Murray declined to be interviewed for this story.) In fact, many are baffled about why she is bothering to run for re-election.
And there doesn't seem to be much initiative boiling up from the members. That's in large part due to the extraordinary rate of departures since Murray took over.
In place of the departing leaders, Murray seems to have deliberately elevated uninspiring but trustworthy foot soldiers — such as Harriett Chandler of Worcester and Steve Brewer of Barre — seemingly to tamp down speculation that she is grooming a successor.
Says one aide: "I almost feel like she's gone out of her way to pick people who don't have leadership ability."
As for the rank-and-file, by next January, more than half the Senate Democrats will have entered office since Murray took over as president in March 2007. And, unlike times past, few of the newcomers came with long experience on the House side.
What's left, many say, is a shrinking set of make-no-waves old-timers, and a huge number of newcomers still learning the ropes.
That has made it easy for Murray to run things however she pleases — which has, for the most part, pleased the other senators. They feel, justifiably, that Murray's tenure has been both productive and electorally beneficial for them, in the face of tremendous odds. That includes the legal woes that forced out senators Dianne Wilkerson of Dorchester, James Marzilli of Stoneham, a nd Anthony Galluccio of Cambridge, as well as the current probation scandal.