Former GOP state Treasurer Joseph D. Malone, the chief consultant and political brains behind Jeffrey S. McCormick’s independent gubernatorial run, has resigned from the campaign, another signal that McCormick is struggling to gain traction.
McCormick’s spokesman, Pete Wilson, confirmed Monday that Malone has “stepped back from the day to day operations” and is no longer directly involved in the campaign. He said Malone was negotiating a return to local television commentary.
“It’s a shift in overall strategy,’’ Wilson said, denying there was any fallout between Malone and McCormick, a wealthy venture capitalist with no political experience who has for the most part self-funded his candidacy.
Wilson said Natasha Perez, another paid consultant to McCormick, will take over Malone’s job as the campaign’s chief strategist. Malone collected $80,000 since last December in that role.
“She has a lot more management expertise, more than Joe, so it’s a good shift for us,’’ Wilson said.
Malone, who has not collected his monthly $10,000 consulting fee since late July, could not be reached for comment Monday.
Malone’s departure is a significant development. He played a key role in McCormick’s entrance into the race as an independent and, with his deep experience in Massachusetts politics, gave credibility to his candidacy.
The departure follows the resignation of two other veteran consultants - Democratic media adviser Dan Payne and GOP strategist Todd Domke - earlier this year. When the team came together last year, all three said they felt McCormick could present himself as an alternative for voters who had been turned off by the current two-party system.
But the resignations of the consulting team along with McCormick’s anemic fund-raising has raised doubts among political analysts as to whether he will play a major role in the general gubernatorial election this fall. Recent polls show him drawing just 5 to 7 percent of the vote. His candidacy is seen as mostly draining support from Republican Charlie Baker, the likely nominee.
Malone has earned the ire of many of his old friends in the state Republican Party for his role in McCormick’s campaign. Once a rising star in the party in the 1990’s, he had bolted the GOP after he lost a congressional primary race in 2010 and registered as an independent.