Mark Fisher ought to send the Massachusetts GOP leadership a thank-you card: The party’s clumsy efforts to prevent a contested Republican gubernatorial primary by keeping him off the ballot seem to have only energized Fisher’s candidacy. The candidate, a self-described Tea Party conservative, has gone to court to win a ballot spot, and appears to have a chance at success. Meanwhile, he’s gathered more than the required 10,000 signatures. Rather than continue its self-defeating battle with Fisher, the GOP would be better off allowing the primary to go forward.
The dispute began at the party’s convention in March, when Fisher seemingly earned just enough support from Republican delegates to make the ballot, along with frontrunner and mainstream favorite Charlie Baker. But after an abrupt change in the rules, the vote-counters announced Fisher had actually fallen just short.
The operating theory among Republican strategists seems to be that Baker’s chances in November will suffer if he has to contest a GOP primary first. But it’s worth remembering that the GOP embraced a similar strategy in 2010, clearing the field for Baker at the state convention. It didn’t work. And this year, it’s just as plausible that a contested Republican primary will help Baker in November by allowing him to showcase his differences with the increasingly unpopular Republican fringe.
But whatever its implications for Baker’s candidacy, there’s another reason for Republicans to relent and allow a primary: It’s the right thing to do for the voters of the Commonwealth.