Another test for the state’s struggling GOP

It’s hard to tell what the Massachusetts Republican Party stands for these days.

Gov. Charlie Baker, the state’s leading Republican, disavowed President Trump on Monday, calling him out for his lack of compassion and leadership. “That’s not what we need in Boston, it’s not what we need right now in Massachusetts, and it’s definitely not what we need across this great country of ours either,” he said.

Yet the party apparatus in Massachusetts is controlled by Republicans who are strong backers of Trump. Jim Lyons, the party chair, is pleading with donors to open their checkbooks to “show President Trump that Massachusetts conservatives have his back and want to help him Keep America Great!”

The mixed messages at the top of the relatively small party appear to be having severe repercussions in local campaigns. The party lost two seats in the Senate last month in special elections, and the GOP now holds just four seats in the 40-member body.

Two seats in the House are up for grabs today. Republican Catherine Clark of Lunenburg is running against Democrat Danillo Sena for the House seat vacated by Democrat Jennifer Benson and Republican Kelly Dooner is running against Democrat Carol Doherty for the seat that opened up when Republican Shaunna O’Connell left the House to become mayor of Taunton.

Democrats would appear to have an edge in both races, in part because the Republican candidates are not getting much help from their party. Lyons admitted last week that the party is in “dire straits” and “in danger of losing to the Beacon Hill radicals.”

Baker, meanwhile, appears to be pursuing a strategy of supporting candidates who he feels are more like him – mostly Republicans but some Democrats – using a super PAC with close ties to him called Massachusetts Majority.

Here’s how the situation is playing out financially in the two special elections being held today.

Clark, a realtor from Lunenburg, has raised a total of $13,832 this year, while Sena, a former district director for Sen. Jamie Eldridge of Acton, has raised more than $33,000.

The Massachusetts Majority super PAC is all in with Clark. The PAC spent $7,332 supporting her primary campaign and another $11,472 backing her run against Sena.  Sena, meanwhile, has also received PAC backing. The Mass Values PAC, which is funded by the Service Employees International Union, has spent $20,830 on his behalf.

Tooner, a paralegal who has the endorsement of O’Connell, has raised slightly more money than Doherty in their race, but she has received no help from the Baker-affiliated PAC. By contrast, the Mass Values PAC has spent $31,942 on behalf of Doherty, a retired educator and long-time Taunton School Committee member.

The results of the two House races should be another indication of which direction the Republican Party is headed in in Massachusetts.

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

In advance of Wednesday’s House vote, debate continues over what exactly mail-in voting should look like. (Gloucester Daily Times)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Protests continue over the murder of George Floyd, with 500 demonstrating peacefully Monday in Andover (Eagle-Tribune), and several hundred more in Worcester (Telegram & Gazette). Worcester police made arrests, however, after a nighttime gathering got confrontational. (Telegram & Gazette) Windows were smashed and tires deflated in a protest outside the Northampton police station before Police Chief Jody Kasper took a knee with protesters, defusing the situation. (MassLive) Some protests turned to local issues with police-involved deaths, specifically the 2012 shooting death by police of 15 year-old Malcolm Gracia in New Bedford. (Standard-Times)

A Salem police captain is put on leave after sending a tweet from the department’s Twitter account criticizing Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Gov. Charlie Baker for allowing thousands to protest the murder of George Floyd while restaurants remain closed. “You and Too Tall Deval are killing this State,” Capt. Kate Stephens wrote to Walsh. (The Salem News)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Preliminary and still incomplete federal data indicate 26,000 nursing home residents have died nationwide from COVID-19. (NPR)

The Department of Public Health begins reporting probable COVID-19 cases and deaths in addition to confirmed ones. (MassLive)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL 

President Trump vowed to crack down on violent protests in brief remarks that did not address racism or the issue of police brutality that has sparked national unrest. (Boston Globe) Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at peaceful protesters in Washington, DC, to clear a path for Trump to walk from the White House to a nearby church, which he posed for cameras in front of holding a Bible. (Washington Post)

An autopsy ordered by the family of George Floyd, the unarmed black man killed during police custody in Minneapolis whose death has sparked the protests, shows that he died of asphyxiation. (Associated Press)

As unrest continued in US cities, more than six police officers were injured by gunfire or hit by cars. (New York Times)

The family business of the Treasury official running the federal bailout program for COVID-19 is benefitting from that program. (ProPublica)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Office buildings in Boston were open — and largely empty — on the first day of their authorized restart. (Boston Globe)

Some Cape restaurant owners have decided to close either permanently or for the season ahead of the state’s timetable for restaurants to reopen later this month. (Cape Cod Times)

EDUCATION

Boston University plans to offer undergraduates a choice of online or on-campus courses this fall. (Boston Globe)

The Archdiocese of Boston notified families on Monday that it will close St. Jerome School in Weymouth, citing a drop in enrollment due to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic fallout. (Patriot Ledger) 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington will argue before the Supreme Judicial Court that pretrial defendants who are considered dangerous should not be released while awaiting trial due to the coronavirus. (MassLive)