BOSTON (AP) — Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said he’s not surprised that some GOP donors in Massachusetts have threatened to pull their financial support from the party following a series of fractious statements and positions taken by the party leadership.
Baker made the comments after 16 Massachusetts Republicans recently signed a letter to the state committee saying they will stop contributing unless major changes are made. The 16 have contributed a combined nearly $1 million.
Baker said at a press conference Tuesday that he, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, and other elected Republican officials “don’t believe many of the recent decisions and statements that have been made by the leadership at the state party are consistent with where we believe most Republicans are generally.”
“The state committee, at the end of the day, needs to make decisions about the state party apparatus. That’s their role. That’s their responsibility,” he added. “But I’m not surprised that a number of folks who have been loyal, generous donors and supporters to the party have raised serious concerns about some of the things that have been coming out of the state committee and I hope they address them.”
Baker, a more moderate Republican, has found himself at odds with the more conservative head of the party, Massachusetts Republican Party Chair Jim Lyons. Lyons is a supporter of former President Donald Trump. Baker said publicly that he refused to vote for Trump in 2016 and 2020.
Lyons told NBC Boston that he is trying to grow the party from the grassroots and he would like to sit down with the Republicans who signed the letter. He also downplayed any friction with Baker.
“I have always gotten along with Charlie Baker. It is the people around him that I don’t like,” Lyons said.
He also said he hasn’t considered stepping down.
Lyons — who has been less shy than some Massachusetts Republicans about wading into cultural issues — drew fire recently when he refused to sanction a GOP party official for saying in an email that she was “sickened” that a gay Republican congressional candidate had adopted two children with his partner.
The comments drew swift condemnation at the time, including from inside the party. Baker called the comments “disgusting and unacceptable.”
“Bigotry has no place in the commonwealth,” he said at the time.
Lyons refused to pressure the official to resign, saying he was standing up for free speech and religious freedom and was opposed to what he labeled “cancel culture.”
Lyons has also said he hopes to push a ballot question that would require residents to produce an ID to vote.
In a fundraising email Monday, Lyons also called critical race theory “blatant racism” that teaches children that their skin color automatically makes them inherently bad people.
“For far too long, Massachusetts Republicans have been afraid to wade into so-called ‘cultural issues.’ That mentality must end before it’s too late,” Lyons said.
Baker is the top elected Republican in the state and has generally remained popular with voters in the state which has elected Democrats to every other stateside office — Baker and Polito ran as a team — and all nine Congressional seats. Democrats also hold wide margins in both the Massachusetts House and Senate.