State Committee Races May Hold Key To Future of MassGOP

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On Super Tuesday, names like Donald Trump and Bill Weld will appear on the Republican Party ballot in Massachusetts, but depending on where you live, so will names like Geoff Diehl, Myles Heger, Shawn Dooley, and Mark Townsend.

No, they’re not running for president. They’re hoping to be members of the Republican State Committee.

Four parties in Massachusetts are formally recognized by the Secretary of Commonwealth (Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, and Green Rainbow), based on their performances in previous elections, which automatically qualifies them for the next general election ballot. Each party has a state committee that is elected once every four years.

Each committee has 80 members, one man and one woman from each state Senate district. It’s a volunteer position and, according to the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s web site, committee members will “promote the aims of each party,” “work in cooperation with the national committee and with ward and town committees,” and “organize and work for the nomination and election of party candidates.”

As Myles Heger of East Bridgewater, a candidate for State Committeeman in the Norfolk, Plymouth and Bristol district, puts it, the GOP committee members “vote on the platform of the party, build local committees, and fundraise for candidates in their districts.”

Former state Representative Geoff Diehl (R-Whitman), who was Elizabeth Warren’s Republican challenger in the 2018 U.S. Senate race, is running to represent the 2nd Plymouth and Bristol District, as is his wife KathyJo Boss.

Diehl in 2014 spearheaded opposition to a plan by the state Legislature to index Massachusetts’s gas tax to inflation, leading to a successful ballot question campaign that stopped it. He was a supporter of President Donald Trump in 2016.

Diehl says his and his wife’s experience would be an asset to the committee.

“Having run in several elections, starting with State Representative in 2010 and ending with my race against Elizabeth Warren in 2018 for the U.S. Senate, KathyJo and I have been able to experience quite a bit in just 10 years,” he told New Boston Post in a telephone interview. “From state to national conventions, a presidential inauguration and what seems like a million fund raisers for my campaigns or other candidates, we feel like we have a clear view of the milestones needed to run successfully for office and we want to transfer that knowledge and help the next wave of people ready to serve their town, state, or country.”

If elected, Diehl would like to see State Committee positions reserved for those who are not currently in state, county, or federal office. He said he’d like to address problems identified by the party’s current chairman, Jim Lyons, a former state representative who served with Diehl in the state Legislature before Lyons was elected chairman.

“The promise of jobs or the steering of funds or manpower towards favored candidates cannot be tolerated if the MassGOP wants to attract good candidates to run,” he said. “Jim Lyons and I have seen how the party apparatus has been manipulated to create intra-party primaries to hobble or stop candidates who want to actually make a change to how state government operates. The super-minority status that House and Senate Republicans hold is the result of years of abuse by a compliant state committee and change to that body is well overdue.”

Diehl is in a three-way race with Gordon Andrews of Halifax, a selectman in that town; and Larry Novak of Brockton, who heads the city’s Republican committee.

Novak told New Boston Post in an email message, “I believe that this election is a referendum on socialism and we need strong Republican Party to lead the fight to keep free enterprise system.”

Andrews could not be reached this past weekend.

Diehl’s wife, KathyJo Boss, running against Jeanie Falcone of Brockton, the incumbent State Committee member for 2nd Plymouth and Bristol District. Falcone could not be reached over the weekend.

Two current state representatives are running for State Committee on the Republican side:  Shawn Dooley (R-Norfolk) in the Norfolk, Bristol and Middlesex district; and Jay Barrows (R-Mansfield) in the Bristol and Norfolk district.

Barrows is running against Jeffrey Bailey of Attleboro.

Dooley is running against Earl Sholley, also of Norfolk, a current member of the State Republican Committee. 

Dooley said he is running because he wants to bring unity to the party between the conservative and moderate factions.

The Massachusetts Republican Party has divisions between supporters and critics of President Trump, and between conservatives like Lyons and moderates who identify more with Governor Charlie Baker. Lyons has said publicly that he has a good relationship with the governor, but they are often seen as leading two wings of the party that clash.

“The constant infighting and purity tests are destructive and do nothing but hinder our getting out a positive message and be able to move Massachusetts forward,” Dooley said in an email message. “If I’m fortunate enough to get elected, my focus will be to build a solid statewide farm team and bring forward great candidates with solid messaging. I am confident that this approach will relate to voters in the face of the extremist rhetoric that seems to be permeating the Democratic Party.”

Dooley’s opponent, Sholley, who ran for Congress against Barney Frank in 2008, could not be reached for comment this past weekend.

Heger has been chairman of the East Bridgewater Republican Town Committee since 2012. He said he would like to put a stronger emphasis on pro-life issues in the party platform.

As by email what he else he would prioritize in office, Heger said:  “Electing Republicans to Town Government, working to help elect more State Reps and State Senators, and continue to support President Trump.”

Heger is opposed by Steven Fruzzetti of Milton. Fruzzetti could not be reached for comment this past weekend.

The key for those who are on the State Committee, says Mark Townsend of Carver, a current member, is having a long-term vision for the party.

“We have many people who run for this position that talk about grassroots,” said Townsend, the chairman of the Plymouth County Republican Club and a State Committee member since 2012, in an interview.  “Yet when it comes time to helping candidates, they are nowhere to be found. I’m proud of the work I do to build the farm team of the GOP with legislative and local candidates and will continue to build on that in my new term on the Republican State Committee.”

“I’m proud of the fact that we have, by and large, maintained our numbers in the state legislature,” Townsend added. “This will always be an area of focus and concern for me. I’m endorsed by many state representatives and local candidates in my district because they know how hard I have worked in their races and in countless others across my district and region. Gaining more legislative and local seats is definitely a goal but it isn’t easy to do.”

Townsend is opposed by Brian Kennedy of Taunton. Kennedy served as the secretary of the Taunton Republican city committee from 2011 to 2015.

Other notable State Committee candidates include:

  • Angel mom Maureen Maloney (Worcester and Norfolk), who lost a son in 2011 in a drunken driving accident involving an illegal immigrant. Maloney is running unopposed.
  • Jay McMahon of Bourne and Jesse Brown of Plymouth, who are both also running in the GOP primary for the Plymouth and Barnstable District of the Massachusetts Senate candidates. The two are squaring off on the Tuesday, March 3 ballot in two races.
  • Male-to-female transgender Jordan Willow Evans (Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire and Middlesex) of Charlton, a Trump critic, who is running against Lindsay Valenzola, a current State Committee member who lives in the town of Wales.

An employee from the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office told New Boston Post that one can run for State Committeewoman, as Evans is doing, even if the person is a biological male.

An official of the Massachusetts Republican Party could not be reached for comment the party’s policy on transgender candidates.

State Committee races are on the same ballot as the Massachusetts presidential primaries, which are Tuesday, March 3.

To find out who’s on the primary ballots in your precinct in Massachusetts, go to the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Elections Division web site and fill in the address where you are registered to vote.