The House Republican behind an effort to oust state Committee Chairman Jim Lyons over his refusal to reprimand a committeewoman for homophobic remarks said Lyons missed a “golden opportunity” to bring a fractured state party together.
“We always say we want a big tent and to bring anyone into the party, well Mr. Lyons, this was your opportunity to do that,” said Rep. Peter Durant, R-Spencer. “We always say if your gay, straight, Black, trans, Hispanic, it doesn’t matter as long as they believe in our ideals and Mr. Lyons missed the golden opportunity to do that.”
House Republicans are at odds with Lyons over his refusal to call on Deborah Martell, an elected official in the 80-member state committee, to resign. Martell wrote in an email to fellow Republicans last month that was shared with The Boston Globe that said she was “sickened” that Jeffrey Sossa-Paquette and his husband had adopted two children.
Sossa-Paquette is challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat.
In an interview with the Herald on Sunday, Durant spoke about the ideals of the Republican Party — equality and personal freedom — and the “consequences of silence” in a state where Republican numbers are small.
“We fight every chance we get to bring people into the party based on these ideals we strongly believe in, so when you get this kind of negative publicity, this just gives a black eye to everybody and makes it more of an uphill battle,” Durant said.
The latest in-party squabble reveals a widening “split,” Durant said, between Lyons and Trump-Republicans and more moderate operatives in Gov. Charlie Baker’s camp.
Calling his silence on the matter “unfathomable and deeply concerning” in a letter signed by 29 of the 30 House Republicans, members demanded Lyons’ resignation on Friday.
The sole missing signature belonged to Rep. Marc Lombardo of Billerica. Lombardo did not respond to questions.
“If you will not assert your position as leader of this esteemed party and demand Ms. Martell’s resignation, then we call on you to resign as the Chair of the Party and allow for your replacement so that we may demonstrate to the people of the Commonwealth that within the Republican Party, Ms. Martell’s opinions are not ours and will not be tolerated,” the letter demands.
In a statement released late Friday night, Lyons said, “I acknowledge that she wrote in a manner that was offensive” but he refused to “force a woman of deep Catholic faith to resign.”
Lyons declined to comment further when reached by phone on Sunday.