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As Mass. GOP moves right, Anthony Amore runs a lonely race as a moderate

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Anthony Amore, the Republican running for state auditor, is director of security and chief investigator at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Anthony Amore, the Republican running for state auditor, is director of security and chief investigator at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Republican Anthony Amore was campaigning for state auditor at a recent fall festival in Leominster, when a voter approached with a pressing question.

Did Amore support Donald Trump and his movement to Make America Great Again? When Amore said he didn't, the man refused to shake his hand and walked away.

Amore might be the loneliest Republican in Massachusetts. He's a moderate running in a party dominated by pro-Trump conservatives. And he's the only statewide Republican candidate who called for Trump's impeachment after the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Most of the Republicans running for statewide office in Massachusetts embrace Trump and his conservative positions. So do many Republican voters, who reject the moderate Republicanism of Gov. Charlie Baker and derisively call him and Amore RINOs, or Republicans In Name Only.

"I got a hate-mail yesterday about how I’m 'Rino-scum' because Charlie Baker made me his only endorsement," Amore said, while campaigning on a recent weekend at the Johnny Appleseed Arts and Cultural Festival in Central Massachusetts.

Anthony Amore greets voters in Leominster. (Anthony Brooks/ WBUR)
Anthony Amore greets voters in Leominster. (Anthony Brooks/ WBUR)

In the race for auditor, Amore is pushing against his party's swing to the right, even if it costs him the support of pro-Trump Republicans voters. "Many people who describe themselves as Trump supporters would rather blank the ballot and have a Democrat," Amore said.

Amore says his 30 years of experience have prepared him to be state auditor, the state’s main fiscal watchdog. He oversees security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, and is a private investigator who helped lead the effort to improve security at Logan Airport after the 9/11 attacks.

“I’ve been doing investigations, audits and assessments and inspections for the federal government, for the private sector," Amore said. "It’s just something I do — and I do it really well."

Amore identifies as a fiscally conservative and socially liberal Republican in the mold of Baker and other former Republican governors like William Weld. He says he's for low taxes and small government, but supports abortion rights. That used to be standard for Massachusetts Republicans. But today, the party's base is dominated by pro-Trump conservatives who regard some of Amore's positions as apostasy.

Many of them feel the same way about Baker, who is not seeking a third term and who has ducked much of the political fray this year. Baker hasn’t even endorsed Geoff Diehl, the Republican running to replace him, or any other statewide candidate — except Amore. "I think he’s probably the most qualified person who’s run to be auditor in a long time," Baker said of Amore.

Amore says he welcomes the endorsements from Baker and another prominent Massachusetts Republican, former acting Gov. Jane Swift, even if they further alienate the conservative base. And, indeed, some Republicans openly oppose both Amore and Baker.

“Anthony, along with Charlie, has only been a Republican in name only," said John MacDonald, a Republican activist, who claims both politicians have snubbed conservatives across the state.

MacDonald is urging voters in his party to either leave the November ballot for auditor blank or write in another Republican. Like some in the conservative wing of the state GOP, MacDonald is particularly aggrieved that Amore called for the impeachment of President Trump, who he said is "still a very popular figure in conservative Republican circles."

Polls confirm that Trump is indeed popular among registered Republicans in Massachusetts, but not among voters overall in the state. Trump lost twice in Massachusetts by 2-to-1 margins against Democrats running for president.

In response to attacks from his party's base that he is insufficiently conservative, Amore said his politics have remained the same for years. But he says the state GOP has left him behind with its shift to the right. The party is now dominated by people like Sydney Walsh, a state Republican committee member from Leominster.

"I am a Trump MAGA — Make America Great Again — believer," Walsh said with a smile.

Walsh said she's not following the auditor's race. But when it comes to picking political candidates she has one key condition: "I'm for anyone who's endorsed by President Trump," she said.

So she’s supporting Diehl for governor, but Walsh is one more Republican who probably won't be voting for Amore.

It doesn't help that Amore is at odds with the chairman of the state GOP, Jim Lyons, who represents the pro-Trump wing of the party.

"I don't feel supported by the state Republican Party," Amore said.

Amore also complained that Lyons declined to post his picture on the party's website. Lyons said he requested pictures of all the statewide candidates by themselves, but Amore submitted a picture of him with Baker instead. "That's not what I asked for," Lyons said, adding that he supports all the statewide GOP candidates.

Gov. Charlie Baker and Anthony Amore. The Mass. GOP declined to post the picture on its website. (Anthony Amore/WBUR)
Gov. Charlie Baker and Anthony Amore. The Mass. GOP declined to post the picture on its website. (Courtesy Anthony Amore)

Running as a Republican in such a Democratic state is never easy, even with the full support of the party. At the St. Patrick’s Day breakfast in Boston last March, Amore joked about trying to explain his campaign to voters.

“I ask them, ‘Do you know what it means to be the Republican candidate for auditor?’ " Amore said. "And they say, ‘nope.' I start to tell them what the auditor does, and they go, 'no, no, no, no. What’s a Republican?’ "

The joke got him some laughs, but probably few Republican votes. And it summed up the challenge Amore faces winning the general election this fall.

Democrats are hopeful they can sweep all the state’s constitutional offices and congressional seats in November, and also retain super-majorities in the Legislature. Amore argues that he would be a check on one-party rule. He says Massachusetts has benefited from a moderate Republican in the governor’s office, and a Republican auditor could offer much needed oversight.

His Democratic opponent, state Sen. Diana Dizoglio, disagrees. She said party identity for the state auditor shouldn't matter.

"I think it’s important that we have an independent voice who can stand up, regardless of party affiliation,” she said, adding that she's challenged the leadership of her own party.

Massachusetts state Senator Diana DiZoglio at WBUR for a State Auditor Democratic Primary Debate on Radio Boston. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Massachusetts state Senator Diana DiZoglio at WBUR for a State Auditor Democratic Primary Debate on Radio Boston. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Amore said he also wants to transcend party affiliation.

"I'm trying to appeal to the electorate writ large, not to a subset of what I think are almost cultists," he said.

It's always a challenge for Republicans to win in blue Massachusetts — a Republican hasn't won the auditor's race in more than 80 years. Still, the split in the state GOP might be making Amore's uphill climb toward Election Day in November even steeper.

This segment aired on October 3, 2022.

Related:

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

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