Rep. Dooley to run for state GOP chair

Wants to bridge divide between Baker, Trump camps

REP. SHAWN DOOLEY of Norfolk announced Monday evening that he is running for the chairmanship of the Massachusetts Republican Party as a candidate who can bridge the divide between the Trump and Baker factions of the party.

Massachusetts Republicans are badly divided right now. The party chairmanship is currently held by Jim Lyons, a former state rep from Andover, a hard-line conservative, and a big supporter of the president. Lyons, who is expected to seek reelection, wrested control of the party away from allies of Gov. Charlie Baker by a vote of 47-30 in January 2019 and the two sides have gone their separate ways since. Baker no longer raises money for the state party, choosing instead to put his political muscle behind a super PAC that has supported Republicans and Democrats.

Dooley said the only way the state Republican Party can become more than an “afterthought” in Massachusetts is if Republicans across the political spectrum come together and work as a team. “We need to get back to the core beliefs of the Republican Party,” he said, ticking off priorities such as small government, personal responsibility, and fiscal discipline.

Dooley sees himself as someone with a foot in both camps. Unlike Baker, Dooley voted for Trump and is a conservative. He also has not been afraid to go against the governor, filing an amicus brief in a Supreme Court case challenging Baker’s authority to declare a state of emergency in Massachusetts and issue sweeping executive orders covering everything from restaurant closures to gathering limits. In a Facebook post, Dooley half-jokingly referred to Baker as “King Charles” but said his quarrel was less with Baker’s handling of the crisis and more the precedent being set.

Despite their differences, Baker endorsed Dooley for re-election this year to a seat he has held since 2014. “Not only is he a friend, but he is a gifted legislator whose tenacity and passion make him a true leader in the State House. Even when we don’t agree, I appreciate his viewpoint and his commitment to fight for the people he represents,” Baker said in endorsing him.

Dooley said he talks with Baker about four times a week. “I like Charlie. I get along with Charlie,” he said. Indeed, Dooley said their relationship illustrates what he’d like to see happen throughout the party. “I don’t think you always have to agree with someone to have a good relationship,” he said.  “We don’t all have to agree on everything.”

Dooley would like to change the party’s messaging, stepping back from the relentless focus on the negative and attacks on Democrats. “That turns off a lot of people,” he said.

Republicans currently occupy the offices of governor and lieutenant governor and their ranks in the Legislature have been thinning, a situation that predates Lyons. There are no Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation and party membership has dropped below 10 percent of voters.

Dooley said many Massachusetts voters back Republican governors to serve as a check on the Democrat-controlled Legislature, but that check is weakening as the GOP loses more and more ground on Beacon Hill. The 40-member Senate will have only three members next session.

“We are a super minority. We are the underdog,” he said. “The only way we’re going to win is by working harder and working as a team.”

The 80-member Republican state committee is expected to vote on chairman in January, but it’s not clear if a date has been set yet. The position comes with a salary, but Dooley said he would not take one until the party’s finances improve. A spokesman for the state party couldn’t be reached for comment Monday night.