BOSTON — The Massachusetts Republican Party has offered to certify Tea Party-affiliated Mark Fisher as a gubernatorial candidate — a move that could pave the way for a contested GOP primary.
The party maintains that Fisher fell just short of becoming eligible for the ballot by failing to win the backing of 15 percent of delegates at the party’s state convention. Charlie Baker, the state’s 2010 gubernatorial candidate, won the party’s endorsement.
Fisher had sued, claiming that the party violated its own rules by including blank ballots in the tally and that it added 54 additional blanks to the total after the roll call on the convention floor.
In a court filing Wednesday, party leaders denied wrongdoing but said in “the best interests of the public, as well as the Republican Party,” they would no longer contest Fisher’s certification in exchange for additional legal proceedings to be delayed until after the election.
“The litigation has become a distraction to the Republican Party and a drain on its resources, which should be used for the election of its candidates,” argued party leaders, including MassGOP chairwoman Kirsten Hughes.
They also faulted Fisher for an “unwavering commitment to publicize every aspect of the case both by speaking to newspapers and publishing on his web page and on Facebook every aspect of the dispute” and said he used “relationships within the Republican Party to carry his torch and caused increased disruption to the party.”
They said the “only remaining claim will be for damages which can be fully and fairly litigated after the election.”
A spokeswoman for Fisher declined to comment on the filing but said the campaign had collected more than the necessary 10,000 voter signatures to secure a spot on the ballot. The signatures were delivered to local clerks by Tuesday’s deadline and still need to be certified.
Fisher is planning a press conference Thursday.
A spokesman for Baker said he wants the “quickest and fairest result possible” to the ongoing dispute.
“If that results in a primary, then Charlie welcomes it,” campaign spokesman Tim Buckley said.
The court filing came a day after a Republican Party lawyer rejected what he said was a demand from Fisher for $1 million in exchange for him dropping his lawsuit against the party.
“It is unlawful to compensate someone in exchange for not seeking election,” GOP attorney Louis Ciavarra said in a letter dated Tuesday to Fisher’s attorney, Thomas Harvey. He added that the party would offer to certify Fisher in exchange for him dropping his lawsuit.
Harvey didn’t return a phone call or email Wednesday seeking comment.
On Tuesday, Harvey told The Boston Globe that Fisher had asked for $1 million but said the request was reasonable and not illegal because the candidate had “put a lot” into the race and should be compensated.
Baker and Fisher are the only candidates seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Five Democrats and several independent candidates are also vying to succeed Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, who is not seeking a third term.