Gov. Charlie Baker said he is “not surprised” by an escalation from typically loyal Republican donors fed up with party antics as others pointed to a widening fissure within a party wrestling with the influence of former President Donald Trump in heavily Democratic Massachusetts.
“The State Committee, at the end of the day, needs to make decisions about the state party apparatus,” Baker said speaking in Boston on Tuesday. “That’s their role. That’s their responsibility. 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.”
A group of 16 Republican donors on Monday sent a letter to Republican State Committee members, which was obtained by the Herald. The donors threatened to shut off funding if committee members fail to take action to “restore the Massachusetts Republican Party’s reputation.”
Donors said, “we have lost our remaining confidence in current party leadership” after Chairman Jim Lyons refused to call for the resignation of a committeewoman who made homophobic statements. Lyons is also named in a state campaign finance investigation.
Lyons hit back Tuesday at “a bunch of wealthy donors who haven’t even contributed to the party since I’ve been here and … who have given primarily to Democrats.”
Lyons loyalist and longtime party insider Wendy Wakeman also said it’s a “huge stretch” to call those who signed the Monday letter to committee members as being big-shot Republican donors.
The Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance revealed just two of the 16 signees had donated to the MassGOP since 2019 when Lyons took over. Many of the donors have also contributed to Democratic candidates, including state Speaker of the House Robert A. DeLeo and state Senate President Karen Spilka as well as more liberal officials like Attorney General Maura Healey, Secretary of State William Galvin and U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, who formerly served as mayor of Boston.
Data supported donors’ claim that they’ve donated more than $900,000 collectively to Republican candidates and causes over roughly two decades.
Seven of the 16 signees of the Monday letter have also contributed to Massachusetts Majority Independent Expenditure Political Action Committee, contributing a combined $193,322 since its inception in 2019. The PAC started by real estate developer Gregg Lisciotti of Leominster — who also signed the letter — has pumped out tens of thousands to support candidates aligned with Baker.
No one who could be reached by the Herald returned phone calls on Tuesday.
Wakeman called the donors’ attack on Lyons the latest “concerted hit” on the chairman, who has closely aligned himself with Trump and his ideology — something Baker has repeatedly distanced himself from.
“I like having a Republican governor, but right now he’s leading at the expense of the rest of the party,” Wakeman said, noting his rebuke of Trump and lack of support for former state Rep. Geoff Diehl during his U.S. Senate run. Diehl last week launched his candidacy for governor. Baker has yet to say whether he’ll run for reelection.
Wakeman has supported Baker in the past but said the two-term popular Republican governor has shifted away from GOP principles.