Politics

Gov. Charlie Baker says MassGOP chair Jim Lyons should resign

The governor's comments come after the party chairman publicly supported a Boston City Council candidate who openly made anti-Asian statements.

Jim Lyons Handout
The MassGOP

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said Friday Jim Lyons, the chairman of the MassGOP, should resign after Lyons openly supported a candidate who vied for a Boston City Council seat last month while making anti-Asian social media posts.

Recently filed campaign finance records show the Republican State Committee — through Lyons — spent $3,697 on Facebook ads for candidate Donnie Palmer ahead of the Sept. 14 preliminary election, The Dorchester Reporter first reported earlier this week.

On social media, Palmer, who failed to advance beyond the preliminary race, attacked mayoral hopeful Michelle Wu, the Chicago-born daughter of Taiwanese immigrants.

In one post on Aug. 29, Palmer wrote: “ARE WE ABOUT TO ELECT A CHINESE CITIZEN TO CONTROL THE CITY OF BOSTON?” Accompanying the words was a picture of Wu alongside a photo of Chinese head of state Xi Jinping.

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Palmer took aim at Wu in other posts and, at times, spread falsehoods such as saying the 2020 U.S. election was stolen.

On Thursday, Boston.com reported Jaclyn Corriveau, a Republican State Committee member who is Asian-American, had informed Lyons of Palmer’s Aug. 29 post two days after it was published.

She implored Lyons to rescind his endorsement and “denounce Asian hate,” to which Lyons, as evidenced by a message exchange provided by Corriveau, repeatedly responded by suggesting only that Corriveau speak to Palmer herself.

Baker, a moderate who has repeatedly taken heat from his own party, has clashed before with Lyons, a fervent supporter of former President Donald Trump.

But Friday seemed to mark a new milestone in tensions between the party chair and the party’s top elected official when Baker explicitly told the Reporter that Lyons should step aside.

“First of all, I’ve expressed previously my concerns about the level of vitriol and racism that’s come out of a number of members of the committee,” Baker told the newspaper following an unrelated event at Park Plaza Hotel in downtown Boston. “I’m not familiar with this particular incident but unfortunately, I’m dismayed, but on some level I’m not surprised. It’s a continuation of a practice that has no place in life, much less in public life.

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“And I said previously, that I thought based on some of the previous incidents that had taken place, especially with respect to the gay and lesbian community, that I thought Jim Lyons should step down. I continue to believe that,” Baker added.

The MassGOP did not return a request for comment from the Reporter, nor did it address requests from Boston.com and the Reporter earlier this week regarding Lyons’ support of Palmer’s candidacy.

But Lyons indicated later Friday afternoon he will not step down and took a jab at Baker in a statement, saying in part that Baker is “abandoning the principles of the Republican party.”

“Perhaps it is time for Gov. Baker to reconsider his party affiliation,” Lyons said in the statement.

In May, Baker was among a chorus of Republican officials who denounced anti-gay remarks made by Republican state commiteewoman Deborah Martell and called for her resignation.

Martell, in emails and allegedly in conversation with Jeffrey Sossa-Paquette, who is running for the 2nd Congressional District seat, said she was “sickened” by his decision to adopt two children with his husband.

Party members called on Lyons to step in, but he declined to do so, citing party bylaws that “freedom of speech and religious liberty are values that are unbending and uncompromising,” he said at the time.

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Lyons said only that he acknowledged “that she wrote in a manner that was offensive.”

What happens next for the GOP, if anything, is up to the state committee, Baker said Friday.

The governor noted he has said before that members should vote on these kinds of problems.

“They are for all intents and purposes the organization that oversees the operations of the party apparatus, which is what we are talking about here,” he told the Reporter.

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