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Scott Lively's 'Surprising' Vote Totals Signal Some Mass. GOPers Will Align With The Far-Right To Ditch Baker03:38
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Republican candidate for governor Scott Lively addresses the Massachusetts Republican Convention at the DCU Center in Worcester in April. (Winslow Townson/AP)MoreCloseclosemore
Republican candidate for governor Scott Lively addresses the Massachusetts Republican Convention at the DCU Center in Worcester in April. (Winslow Townson/AP)

What's the difference between a Democrat and Republican Gov. Charlie Baker?

Nothing, according to Mary Lou Daxland, president of the Massachusetts Republican Assembly — a group that calls itself the "Republican wing of the Republican Party."

As expected, though, incumbent Baker won the GOP's gubernatorial primary Tuesday. But what some may not have expected was that his far-right opponent Scott Lively would nab 36 percent of the vote.

"Charlie Baker has been running under the Democrat[ic] platform for the last few years more than the Republican platform," Daxland said.

That's why she voted for Lively, the Springfield pastor who vowed to be the most pro-Trump governor in America. Daxland was one of nearly 100,000 other Republican primary voters who cast their ballots for Lively. It was a number he seized on in his concession speech.

"We still got better than a third of the vote here in the primary," Lively said to his applauding crowd. "And the grassroots conservatives are awake. We know what's going on. We are never going back to where we were before."

"Scott Lively is at the fringe," said Tufts University political science professor Jeff Berry, who described Lively's primary totals as "surprising."

He said Lively's anti-gay rhetoric is out of step with Massachusetts, and so his loss itself was no surprise. But nevertheless, Berry said the primary results are revelatory.

"There's a lot of support for him within the small Republican Party in Massachusetts," he said.

But Daxland said she's not surprised. In her view, Baker's moderate proclivities have sabotaged the state's GOP. Daxland said she cast her ballot not so much for Lively, as against Baker.

"We have been infiltrated to keep the party so flatlined that we don't run anybody against the Democrats," Daxland said.

"We have been infiltrated to keep the party so flatlined that we don't run anybody against the Democrats."

Mary Lou Daxland, president of the Massachusetts Republican Assembly

Lively courted Trump supporters in Massachusetts — supporters like Parson Hicks. But Hicks, who describes herself as a feminist Republican, said she couldn't bring herself to vote for Lively with what she knew about his background and views.

But Hicks didn't vote for Baker either, who she said is no better than a Democrat.

"At least I know what I'm getting with a Democrat," Hicks said. "But with Charlie Baker, who says he's a Republican, I never know."

Tufts professor Berry says the state's Republican Party may be showing signs of getting more conservative.

"[There's] a lot of support for Donald Trump within the state Republican Party," he said. "And I think what you saw [in the primary] is a Trump vote as much as an anti-Baker vote."

But Jennifer Nassour, a former chairwoman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, said the anti-Baker camp has it all wrong.

"[Baker's] governing for everyone," she said. "And he needs to base his management of the commonwealth on everyone, not just on a particular segment of the voting population."

During Baker's victory speech, rather than appealing to the far-right, he doubled down on bipartisanship.

"We need to keep putting progress before politics," Baker said to a crowd that welcomed him with "four more years" chants. "At a time when our country is having trouble finding common ground on so many issues, we in Massachusetts are the exception. But that's not an accident."

Meanwhile, as Lively gave his concession speech, he pledged that the end isn't nigh for his brand of conservatism in Massachusetts. Lively said he and his supporters won't stop until they turn Massachusetts red.

This segment aired on September 6, 2018.

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Quincy Walters Twitter Reporter
Quincy Walters is a general assignment reporter for WBUR.

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