‘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 had no problem with the heavy campaign spending by anonymous groups. “I think political money is free speech,” he said. “When you have reporting requirements, you know who’s supporting whom. But I’m hard-pressed to think of a case where people said I was going to support this candidate until I saw John Doe gave $10,000 to them. I just don’t see that information swaying elections anyway. So I wasn’t bothered by the fact that some money was spent by a, quote-unquote, shady group that nobody ostensibly knew who was behind it. I saw that really as a nonissue.”

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.”

Amore is worried about all the divisiveness in the state GOP, a party that represents just 10 percent of the state’s registered voters. “It just concerns me to see people attacking Jim Lyons as if he’s some evil guy. Jim Lyons is a tremendously nice guy with good intentions,” Amore said. “Likewise, I saw people attacking the governor like he’s the enemy. He’s the de facto leader of our party in terms of elected officials. Not de facto, he actually is. When you’re only 10 percent, you hope that you can have some unity in there and it’s been difficult.”

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.”

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

Is it time for a percent-for-art reboot in Massachusetts? Some lawmakers think so. (CommonWealth)

A state watchdog found there were more than 120 personal care attendants being paid through state contracts in 2018 who were registered sex offenders. (Boston Globe)

Ben Forman of MassINC says corrections data raise big questions about state oversight of prisons and jails. (CommonWealth)

David Bernstein profiles House Speaker Robert DeLeo, the king of Beacon Hill. He uses as his opening anecdote one reported initially by Bob Katzen of Beacon Hill Roll Call. (Boston Magazine)

Drivers are getting warnings for flouting the new hands-free cellphone while driving law. (Telegram & Gazette)

Here’s a look at the long-time debate over how to recalibrate sex ed in Massachusetts classrooms. (Telegram & Gazette)

The Herald’s Hillary Chabot points out that state lawmakers who are poised to raise the gas tax on drivers collect $15,000 to $20,000 a year in an expense allotment meant to cover travel expenses.

CORONAVIRUS

The number of coronavirus cases in the state doubled Sunday to 28, with most of them tied to a late February Boston conference of biotech company Biogen. (Boston Globe)

Hospitals in Western and Central Massachusetts tell US Rep. Richard Neal that they need more test kits and supplies. (MassLive)

The Telegram & Gazette looks at how schools, municipal governments, and hospitals in central Massachusetts are preparing. Schools are upping their cleaning routines. (State House News Service)

Coronavirus is a concern in nursing homes nationally, where 75 percent have been cited for infection control errors. (Standard-Times/USA Today)

The Associated Press looks at the economic impact of coronavirus on businesses.

The State Department urged Americans not to travel on cruise ships, a recommendation issued over the resistance of President Trump, who reportedly worried about hurting that industry. (New York Times) Trump lashed out at a second Democratic governor who raised questions about his administration’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, ripping New York’s Andrew Cuomo only days after calling Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee “a snake.” (Politico)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Despite winning the backing of the Newton City Council and the city’s voters of the large Northland development project, the municipal approval process for allowing new housing is broken and tilted badly toward those who oppose projects, say Boston University political science professors Katherine Levine Einstein and Maxwell Palmer. (Boston Globe)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

MassLive’s Ben Kail looks at President Donald Trump’s history of using taxpayer-funded social media accounts to attack his political rivals. Kail finds, in a separate story, that this may violate federal law. (MassLive)

ELECTIONS

Sen. Cory Booker joins the parade of Democrats endorsing Joe Biden for president. (Washington Post) Kamala Harris also threw in with the former VP over the weekend. Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, meanwhile, endorsed Bernie Sanders. (Politico)

State Republican Party chairman Jim Lyons appears to have enough votes to remain as chairman. (CommonWealth)

A Globe editorial backs the idea of state legislation authorizing cities and towns to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in municipal elections.

Incumbent state lawmakers are facing few electoral challenges so far. (Gloucester Daily Times)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Oil prices and stock plunge after Saudi Arabia stuns the world by slashing its prices. (NPR)

The Associated Press looks at Juul’s courting of former attorneys general, including Massachusetts’ Martha Coakley.

The Massachusetts economy is continuing to show strength. (AP)

EDUCATION

April Brunelle, a guidance counselor at Tech Boston Academy, says vocational school admissions policies failed one of her students. (CommonWealth) Voc schools have shifted their admissions policies away from non-college-bound strivers and toward top students overall. (Boston Globe)

A Bridgewater State University professor has been suspended after he was charged with raping a female student inside his office at the college in October. (Patriot Ledger)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Opioid overdose deaths are down, but the epidemic is still raging. (Eagle-Tribune) Legislators are considering a bill to create a licensing process for recovery coaches. (Eagle-Tribune) The Methuen Police Department has hired civilian engagement specialists to help people with addiction. (Eagle-Tribune)

State officials approve a $4 million renovation of the Cooley Dickinson child birth center. Cooley Dickinson is owned by Partners HealthCare. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Workers at Mystic Generating Station, an oil and natural gas plant in Boston, go on strike citing safety concerns. (AP)

The cost of recycling hits budgets In Massachusetts cities and towns (WGBH)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Around 5,700 credit and debit card numbers were stolen by criminals who placed card skimming devices at ATMs. (MassLive)

After a months-long investigation that looked into seven allegations of misconduct, longtime Falmouth police officer Clifford Harris has resigned. (Cape Cod Times)

Brockton residents made their voices heard and law enforcement officials explained what they are doing in light of a recent uptick in gun violence in the city, during a forum organized by Mayor Robert Sullivan. (The Enterprise)

MEDIA

New York Times media critic Ben Smith says there’s more than a little truth to some of Bernie Sanders’s complaints about the media.