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Republicans Face Many Opponents In Deep Blue Massachusetts — Including Each Other03:47
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MassGOP Chairman Jim Lyons (Sam Doran/State House News Service)
MassGOP Chairman Jim Lyons (Sam Doran/State House News Service)

The Massachusetts Republican Party is a house divided.

The state is led by Gov. Charlie Baker, a popular moderate Republican who refused to support Donald Trump. But the chairman of the state party, which meets Wednesday night, is Jim Lyons, a conservative who backed Trump and argues the best way to grow the party is to embrace the former president's base.

But when Lyons backed an effort to expel Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito from the party's executive committee, many Republicans thought he went too far.

"To further alienate, ostracize — basically create a schism that would be irreparable with the Republican governor is absurd," said Tom Mountain, the vice chair of the party.

Mountain says Lyons and his backers didn't have the votes to oust Baker and Polito from the party's leadership, so they abandoned the effort.

But the schism remains — and it only widened following controversial remarks by Republican State Committee member Deborah Martell.

In a recent email, Martell wrote that she was "sickened" that a Republican congressional candidate, Jeffrey Sossa-Paquette and his husband, adopted two children. Many Republicans condemned the comments, including Baker.

"Those were bigoted remarks," Baker said. "There's simply no way around that."

Baker said Martell's comments don't speak for the Republican Party and he called on Lyons to come out and say that.

"Anyone who's a serious member of the party organization should be denouncing them," he said.

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All but one of the 30 Republican representatives in the Massachusetts House signed a letter on Friday demanding that Lyons call for Martell's resignation. But Lyons refused. He called Martell's comments "offensive," but said the party must be "unafraid to stand up against censorship and cancel culture."

Mountain says Lyons should have gone farther.

"What she did was heinous," Mountain said. "It was intolerant — and quite frankly, it makes the rest of the party look bad. And what the chairman did was stay out of it, and then he doubled down to back her."

WBUR reached out to Lyons, but he did not respond.

On Friday, Baker suggested his party's leadership would do well to remember that politics is supposed to be "a team sport." But right now that team is fractured.

"As a Republican in Massachusetts I'd be lying if I didn't say I was incredibly concerned about the state of the party," said Anthony Amore, a Republican activist who ran unsuccessfully for secretary of state in 2018. Amore argues that efforts by Lyons and his conservative allies to oppose Baker are only making a weak party weaker.

"We are fighting an uphill battle as it is in Massachusetts," he said. "We represent less than 10% of the electorate and we need to grow."

To Amore's point, all 11 members of Massachusetts' congressional delegation are Democrats. And Democrats enjoy overwhelming majorities in both chambers of the State House, including holding 37 of the 40 seats in the state Senate.

So GOP leaders will consider how to grow the party when the Republican State Committee meets Wednesday evening

Not on the agenda, but very much on the minds of many: What will it take to end the internal division and bring state Republicans together?

This segment aired on June 8, 2021.

Related:

Anthony Brooks Twitter Senior Political Reporter
Anthony Brooks is WBUR's senior political reporter.

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