As internal drama roils the Massachusetts Republican Party, another national GOP figure will skip a planned appearance for the state party this week, raising questions about its ability to fund-raise as it contends with the fracas.
Senator Cynthia Lummis, a Wyoming Republican, had been scheduled to attend a June 24 “chairman’s circle” fund-raising event. But “with the Senate going into its final week before recess, and the addition of bills to the schedule, including election reform legislation, Senator Lummis needed to postpone her visit to Boston,” said Kristin Walker, her chief of staff. “She looks forward to traveling to Massachusetts at a later date.”
Walker did not say when Lummis might schedule another visit and did not answer questions about whether the decision was related to party divisions.
The news comes a week after Representative Dan Crenshaw, a prominent Texas Republican, canceled his own fund-raising appearance with the party, a decision that was made due to the party’s internal factions, according to a person familiar with Crenshaw’s planning.
Already divided between social conservatives supportive of GOP Chairman Jim Lyons and moderate establishment Republicans more aligned with Governor Charlie Baker, the state party has been in turmoil in recent weeks after a member of its 80-member governing body, Deborah Martell, made anti-gay remarks about a Republican congressional candidate. In e-mails to and about Jeffrey Sossa-Paquette, Martell wrote that she was “sickened” that he and his husband had adopted children.
Prominent state and national Republican figures, including Baker and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, condemned Martell’s remarks, saying discrimination has no place in the GOP. But Martell said she would not be “bullied” into resigning her elected position, and Lyons said he would not call on her to do so, saying he refused to bow to “cancel culture.”
To some Massachusetts conservatives, Martell has become something of a martyr, under attack for voicing her religious beliefs. To others, she is emblematic of a backward reputation the party should be trying to shed.
The controversy also has threatened Lyons’ standing within the party, with nearly every Republican in the Massachusetts House calling for him to forcefully condemn Martell’s remarks or step down. Seven former GOP chairs also said Lyons should resign or be removed.
But Lyons, who was narrowly reelected to his leadership position in January, still maintains enough support on the Republican State Committee to keep his job, supporters say. Ousting him would require a two-thirds vote, and when the body met earlier this month, there was no concerted effort to strip his power.
Lyons allies on the state committee wrote a letter in support of the chairman this week, telling the party’s former leaders that Lyons has been “maligned, slandered, and libeled since he has been chairman.”
“Chairman Lyons is being fought at every turn by Democrats, the press, the government and even some in his own party,” 28 members of the state committee wrote in a letter dated June 20. “We ask that you reserve judgement of the current Chairman until you’ve walked the proverbial mile in his shoes.”
Lyons did not immediately return a request for comment on Lummis’s decision to skip the event.