‘A low point for Republicans in Mass.’
Two Republicans trying to straddle the deep ideological divide in the Massachusetts GOP say the bitter fight that culminated in last week’s state committee election was all about gaining control of the party’s resources.
On the CommonWealth Codcast, Amy Carnevale, who was reelected to the state committee last week, and Anthony Amore, the GOP nominee for secretary of state in 2018, tried to sort out an election that Carnevale described as “a low point for Republicans in Massachusetts.”
Carnevale said the fight for 80 state committee posts was mostly about money. “The Mass. Republican Party controls the party resources, which are really important for any candidate for governor or statewide office. So I think that’s why the stakes were so high,” she said.
The state committee election was negative and nasty, with direct mailings and robocalls that smeared the opposing sides. Many of the attacks were anonymous because party races are not covered by Massachusetts campaign finance regulations, which require disclosure of how much was spent and by whom. Officials results have not been announced yet, but it appears the more conservative elements of the party who rallied around GOP chairman Jim Lyons prevailed.
“It’s been described as a fight between factions, one on the side of the governor and one on the side of Jim Lyons. I think it also kind of lined up in terms of people who lean towards the governor and people who lean towards the president,” Amore said “But what was mysterious in there is that a lot of the mailings from both sides used the president’s iconography to support their argument. So it got really muddled, and it became really offensive to people who support the president who are portrayed as not supporting him. I think that was the genesis of a lot of the anger.”
Amore said Republicans knew who was behind the various campaigns – maybe not the individuals involved but the groups. He said he was particularly annoyed with Republicans accusing each other of being RINOs, or Republicans in name only.
“I always ask what advantage do you think anyone has by calling themselves Republican when they’re not really one in Massachusetts,” he said. “You get into these odd fights about whether you’re conservative enough versus people who understand there has to be some pragmatism to govern in Massachusetts. I consider myself a conservative but can you be a conservative and govern strictly by conservative values in this state? I don’t even know if it’s possible. It’s certainly almost impossible to get elected that way. So I think that is where there is some struggle between the two factions.”
Carnevale said many factions played a role in the campaign – it wasn’t just Lyons versus Gov. Charlie Baker. “A lot of state committee members supported chairman Lyons because they do believe that he has an effective message that resonates with the grassroots of the party, “ she said. “At the same time, they also respect and support the leadership of Gov. Baker. You can actually have both. The party chairman appeals to a different segment of the party than the governor. I think that’s where a majority of state committee members lie. Certainly you have outside interest groups trying to influence that ratio, but I think a majority of the committee members at the state party support both.”
The party raised a lot more money when forces aligned with Baker controlled it, but Carnevale said Lyons is holding his own. “Jim Lyons is doing a fine job at raising money. He has also worked to cut expenses, by the way. He moved the headquarters of the state party out of the city of Boston to save not only on rent but on parking,” she said. “But it’s not at the level it was with Gov. Baker. Having the governor certainly actively raising money for the party is an advantage but we’re doing better than most state parties.”
Carnevale and Amore weren’t bothered that a super PAC closely aligned with Baker was supporting Democrats and Republicans and Republicans over other Republicans in special primary races for vacant seats in the Legislature.
“Most Republicans are willing to give the governor some slack on what he says about the party,” Carnevale said. “Certainly most Republicans are grateful that it’s not Maura Healey in the corner office governing and they’re grateful Charlie Baker is in there. That being said, there is a recognition and maybe sometimes frustration that he’s not as conservative as they are. But, again, I get back to the fact that I think most Republicans do understand to be governor in Massachusetts you do have to govern from the middle so they’re willing to cut him slack.”
Amore said he understands why the PAC affiliated with Baker was supporting moderates even though polls indicate Republicans in Massachusetts overwhelmingly favor President Trump. “The biggest political party in Massachusetts is the unenrolled party so you have to appeal to those voters as well,” he said. “If this was an election time for the governor you’d see he would be much more popular amongst Republicans in Massachusetts. We’re kind of comfortable in the fact that he’s there and he’s a strong figure. Do I want to see money from the Republican Party go to Democrats? Of course not. But this other group is looking for something in the center and, again, I think its free speech. It should go wherever they want it to go.”
The two Republicans, befitting their role straddling the GOP’s ideological divide in Massachusetts, believe the party will now come together. “I don’t think the problems are insurmountable,” Amore said.
“It’s been an ugly campaign,” Carnevale said. “That being said, I think the Republicans I’ve spoken with in the last two days since the election on Tuesday are ready to put this election behind them and move forward. There’s been a lot of talk about unity and trying to move forward and put our focus back on the Democrats.”
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