Want Real Change in Massachusetts?  Focus on the Legislature

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2017/09/11/want-real-change-in-massachusetts-focus-on-the-legislature/

It’s been a surprisingly busy end to a sleepy political summer, giving many grassroots Republican political activists much to think about.

Various candidates, such as Geoff Diehl and Beth Lindstrom, have announced for U.S. Senate, and businessman John Kingston is 99% in as well. Congresswoman Nikki Tsongas has declared she won’t be seeking re-election, setting off dominoes throughout the Merrimack Valley as current public office holders decide whether to run for her now-open seat, and others quietly plan to run for their seats.

With likely Republican primaries for U.S. Senate and Congress, with popular grassroots candidates like Geoff Diehl and Rick Green from the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, it would be easy for grassroots Republicans to spend the fall and next spring getting involved in those primaries, pushing for their favored candidate.

But I would advise Republican grassroots activists and city and town committee members — keep your eye on the ball, and keep working where you’re already making the most difference:  State legislative races.

The Republican Party has made gains in the legislative arena over the past few cycles, thanks in part to the engagement of conservative grassroots. The volunteers who hold the signs, stuff the envelopes, and go door to door have frequently understood the value in recruiting and assisting candidates for down-ballot offices.

This is true now more than ever. As Republicans, our party controls the federal government, but our state is in tough shape. The only real “accomplishment” of members of our state legislature this year was to give themselves an enormous pay raise — something we MUST hold them accountable for in 2018. We can only do that with strong legislative candidates, and with grassroots volunteers united behind them.

The state budget grew to $40 billion dollars this fiscal year, and tax increases are on the table because it’s likely to be out of balance by year’s end. Our MassHealth system has grown out of control, and the Beacon Hill solution is to punish employers with more taxes, straining their ability to provide health care for their employees, which then pushes more of them onto MassHealth. It’s a cycle designed to grow government dependence, one that must be broken.

The tax-and-spend mentality on Beacon Hill continues to grow, on top of radical left-wing social actions, such as legislation to make Massachusetts a Sanctuary state, and the passage of the Bathroom and Locker Room law last year. Pay raises, taxes, and radical left-wing social policy provide opportunities to create contrast for the voters between common-sense conservatives and radical liberals. Despite our reputation as a Democratic bastion, most Massachusetts voters have common sense and don’t support radical left-wing ideologies. If they’re well informed about their legislators voting for these policies, they’ll throw them out. But that process needs to start now, not wait until the week before the election.

While we’ve frequently elected Republican governors, real reform of state government has been elusive, due to the lack of legislative clout. The power held by the speaker and Senate president has left Republican governor after Republican governor unable to push through even modest reforms supported by the people.

Building our farm team of state representatives and senators is where Massachusetts Republicans should focus, not on high-profile federal races, and federal issues, where we’re likely to get spent into the ground by left-wing radical candidates teaming up with ultra-progressive special interest groups. It’s harder to level the playing field in large districts against these foes, but we can do so in smaller state legislative districts.

In addition to the financial impact, the impact of a person’s individual volunteer time also goes much further on targeted, competitive legislative races. Those legislators are then well-equipped to grow the party and increase our ability to fight back against the Democrats at every level. Until we have a little more balance in the legislature, everything we do beyond that is tougher than it would otherwise be.

The impact on policy is potentially much larger as well. Want real change in Massachusetts? We must add seats to our ranks in the legislature to give the governor leverage. Governor Charlie Baker has issued various vetoes, from the pay raises to the new MassHealth taxes. In many cases, he has been overridden. His spending vetoes are likely to be overridden this fall, forcing the budget out of balance yet again, with calls for tax hikes to follow. If we want to make Governor Baker more effective, he needs more legislators to sustain his vetoes.

And there’s good news:  Recent election results show that once you get outside the immediate Boston area, many Massachusetts legislative districts are extremely competitive for a Republican. If you rank the state representative districts from 1 to 160, with 1 being the most Republican, you’ll find 11 Democrats who hold seats in the top 40 districts — all of which voted for Scott Brown, Charlie Baker, and various other Republicans at different points. Of the 160 house districts, Scott Brown won 109 house districts in 2010 during his special election, and Charlie Baker won 91 in 2014.

There are even five House seats currently held by Democrats that Donald Trump won, and a few more where he lost by a handful of votes. A candidate like Geoff Diehl, running for U.S. Senate, is likely to rack up huge margins in these places — and his coattails could have big benefits when combined with time, talent, and treasure put behind quality legislative candidates.

With legislators bumping their pay by an average of 40%, now is the time to defeat them. Want to learn more about potentially running for office? Or volunteer for a legislative campaign in a targeted district?   Now is the time.


Chanel Prunier is the Executive Director of the Renew Massachusetts Coalition and the former National Committeewoman of the Massachusetts Republican Party. Contact her at [email protected].