Fissures in MassGOP come into view as party members clash over anti-gay remarks outside committee meeting

Fissures in MassGOP come into view as party members clash over anti-gay remarks outside committee meeting

A fissure in the MassGOP came into view outside a state committee meeting as supporters of an openly gay Republican congressional candidate carried signs and called for the resignation of a committeewoman who made anti-gay remarks.

“She should resign,” Jeffrey Sossa-Paquette said of Ludlow committeewoman Deborah Martell, who said in an email she was “sickened” that Sossa-Paquette and his husband had adopted two children.

State Republican Committee Chairman Jim Lyons tried to stay out of the party in-fighting when Martell’s comments went public, saying in his only public statement that he wouldn’t “force a woman of deep Catholic faith to resign” — a decision that has put him at odds with the party’s LGBTQ faction and nearly every member of the House GOP caucus.

Last week 29 of the 30 House Republicans called on Lyons to demand Martell’s resignation or resign himself.

“Jim Lyons is a feckless leader and we absolutely need a new leader at the MassGOP so that Republicans can actually win in the state of Massachusetts because we represent Lincoln’s party and that is a party of equality and tolerance for all,” Sossa-Paquette said Wednesday as he stood outside the door of the building where committee members met.

Lyons did not return phone calls on Wednesday, but the party’s No. 2 man, Tom Mountain, offered Sossa-Paquette a physical and an ideological embrace before heading into the meeting on Wednesday evening.

MARLBOROUGH MA. JUNE 9: Jeffery Sossa-Paquette gets a hug from Tom Mountain, Mass GOP vice chair, outside the Massachusetts GOP meeting on June 9, 2021 in Marlborough, MA. (Staff Photo By Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

“This is the party’s problem and we’re not going to put up with this type of intolerance,” Mountain said.

Though he declined to weigh in on the calls for Lyons resignation, Mountain said “it is our obligation to condemn it, try to mitigate it as best as possible and quite frankly to ask for Ms. Martell to resign because she does not represent the Republican Party of Massachusetts.”

Supporters of Sossa-Paquette — who is challenging Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern — clashed with a handful of counterprotesters from their own party.

“You’re a bigot,” Alex Hagerty — a gay man and Abington selectman who organized the Wednesday night rally — yelled in the face of Dianna Ploss, a Massachusetts Republican commentator.

Inside a conference room at the Apex Entertainment center in Marlboro, members voted to send a watered-down version of a bylaw amendment that would weaken the authority of the party’s 21-member executive committee, which currently holds the power to endorse, to the bylaw committee.

The Lyons-backed amendment would instead place that authority with the 80-member committee at large. Members will vote in September.

Lyons and committeeman and former state Rep. Geoff Diehl initially sought to make elected officials de-facto members of the executive committee — a ploy that would have weakened the moderate Gov. Charlie Baker’s influence inside the MassGOP just as the campaign season for the upcoming 2022 statewide election heats up.

Baker did not attend the Wednesday committee meeting but in a press conference last week said it “doesn’t make any sense” for the party to attempt to kick out the “only two elected Republicans who are statewide officeholders.”

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