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Massachusetts Republican Party leader Jim Lyons narrowly held on to his chairmanship on Sunday after a disappointing cycle for state Republicans, fending off a challenge from state Rep. Shawn Dooley and positioning himself to lead the party into the next gubernatorial election.
Lyons, a former state representative from Andover, defeated Dooley 39 to 36 to win a second two-year term. Seventy-five of the 80 Republican State Committee members voted during a socially-distanced, drive-in election in Littleton on Sunday.
Committee members listened to speeches from Lyons and Dooley from their cars by tuning their radios to a pre-selected station, and voted in small groups.
Lyons, a fiscal and social conservative, won the right to lead the party into the 2022 election when Gov. Charlie Baker could be seeking a third term. Baker has distanced himself from the party in recent years as the organization moved to the right and aligned itself with President Donald Trump. It's a break that has hurt the party's fundraising, and Republicans lost five seats in the Legislature since the beginning of the session that ends this week.
"Thank you to the Republican State Committee for the trust you have placed in me. With all of us working together, we will make the MassGOP great again!" Lyons Tweeted Sunday after his victory.
Dooley, a Norfolk Republican, decided to challenge Lyons after he said he thought Lyons focused the party's messaging too much on national politics and lacked a positive platform on which local candidates could campaign.
"I have always been a proud conservative Republican. But for the past couple of years the party has lost its way within Massachusetts. Our messaging has been incredibly negative, our campaigns can be best described as chaotic, and we have shunned entire swaths of the electorate in a misguided attempt to control the state party," Dooley wrote on Facebook in the days ahead of the leadership election.
Dooley said 18 Republican members of the House supported his candidacy, which represents a majority of the 31 GOP House lawmakers, but few of those members sit on the state committee.
Lyons, after his victory, said he valued party unity as he looks ahead to the 2022 election cycle, according to the Boston Globe.
"We need to come together as a party," the paper quoted him saying.
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