Infighting within the Massachusetts GOP intensified Friday after Governor Charlie Baker called on the party chairman, Jim Lyons, to resign, and Lyons sniped back that the governor should “reconsider his party affiliation.”
Baker made the remarks to the Dorchester Reporter after an unrelated event Friday, saying, “Jim Lyons should step down,” following news that Lyons did not withdraw his support for a Boston City Council candidate after being informed that the candidate had made anti-Asian posts online.
Baker said he wasn’t familiar with “this particular incident,” but said “I’ve expressed previously my concerns about the level of vitriol and racism that’s come out of a number of members of the committee.”
The governor added that the matter should be in the hands of the 80-member Republican State Committee, which has the power to remove Lyons from his leadership role. Doing so would require a two-thirds vote, and party insiders said Friday that it was unlikely to happen in the aftermath of the incident.
Lyons endorsed — and the state GOP spent $3,697 supporting — City Council candidate Donnie Palmer, who has made several anti-Asian remarks and posts on social media, screenshots and records show.
Lyons shot back in a statement Friday afternoon, saying he has no plans to resign and that it is Baker who is “abandoning the principles of the Republican Party.”
“Sorry Charlie, unlike you, I will continue to fight for this great country and will continue to refuse to submit to the agenda of the radical left,” Lyons said in the statement.
Baker and Lyons have a chilly relationship, and head two warring factions of the state’s underdog party. Baker, a moderate, popular second-term incumbent, takes a bipartisan approach in his dealings with the Democratic-dominated Legislature; Lyons, for his part, leads a more conservative faction of the party that argues Republicans in the state should take a harder line despite their minimal power on Beacon Hill.
Already facing a dwindling vote share and lagging fund-raising, the Massachusetts GOP has been in turmoil this year after a member of its state committee had made anti-gay remarks about a Republican congressional candidate. Baker at the time called for the committeewoman to resign, but Lyons refused to, saying he would not bow to “cancel culture.”
After that incident, numerous GOP leaders said Lyons should step down.
Jaclyn Corriveau, the only Asian American member of the Republican State Committee, said she brought Palmer’s offensive posts to Lyons’s attention as long ago as August, exhorting him to retract his support for Palmer and condemn the remarks.
Instead, Lyons directed Corriveau to reach out to Palmer directly, according to screenshots Corriveau provided to The Boston Globe. Corriveau repeatedly asked Lyons “to denounce Asian hate” but Lyons never made a public remark condemning Palmer.
Palmer, who came in 14th out of 17 candidates in the September preliminary election for City Council, has taken repeated shots online at city councilor and mayoral front-runner Michelle Wu, whose parents are Taiwanese immigrants. In late August, he posted a photo of her on Facebook alongside an image of Xi Jinping, asking “ARE WE ABOUT TO ELECT A CHINESE CITIZEN TO CONTROL THE CITY OF BOSTON?”
Palmer has also called COVID-19 a “Chinese” virus and asked, “Does China run Boston?”
Palmer also had the endorsement of Geoff Diehl, a former state lawmaker who is running as a Republican for governor next year and has the backing of Donald Trump.