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OPINION

The battle within the state Republican Party

Chairman Jim Lyons and his hard-right faction try to undercut auditor hopeful Anthony Amore.

Governor Charlie Baker (right) greets Anthony Amore, the GOP candidate for auditor.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

It’s a subterranean struggle for the future of the Massachusetts Republican Party — and it’s cropping up in the pettiest of ways.

Consider: By most measures, the state GOP’s best hope to win a statewide office in November rests with Anthony Amore, its candidate for auditor. Since 2005, Amore has been director of security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, where he leads the effort to recover the 13 paintings stolen in 1990. He’s authored or coauthored three bestselling books, “The Art of the Con,” “The Woman who Stole Vermeer,” and “Stealing Rembrandts.”

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He also has a decade and a half of experience in a number of federal security posts. Amore is endorsed by popular GOP Governor Charlie Baker, who has put considerable effort into helping boost his candidacy. Baker’s effort is driven in part by his belief that electing Amore could continue a Beacon Hill beachhead for moderate, pragmatic Republicanism.

In short, Amore is the kind of candidate a mainstream Massachusetts voter might well want to learn more about. Sadly, he or she couldn’t do so by going to the state GOP’s website and clicking on “Our Candidates.”

There you’ll find Trump toady and gubernatorial nominee Geoff Diehl, currently behind Democratic nominee Maura Healey in the polls by some 26 points. And lieutenant gubernatorial nominee Leah Allen, who considers vaccination requirements “a form of segregation.” And Rayla Campbell, the party’s potty-mouthed candidate for secretary of state who contends the schools are teaching 5-year-olds that it’s OK for them to perform oral sex on each other. And politically hapless attorney general nominee Jay McMahon.

But no Anthony Amore.

When I asked MassGOP Chairman Jim Lyons why not, he replied: “He asked me not to put his picture up. We reached out to all the statewide candidates and asked if they wanted us to put their picture on the website and he declined.”

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Really?

Well, no.

According to Amore, he sent the GOP state committee a picture of himself with Baker — and Lyons refused to use it. Unlike Lyons, Baker is not a Trumper or a social issues conservative, which makes him anathema to the party czar. Although Amore voted for Trump in 2020, he called for his impeachment after the violent events of Jan. 6.

When I recounted what Amore had told me, Lyons acknowledged he had rejected the photo Amore sent, stipulating (though the state committee’s original request hadn’t) via email that “we are only putting candidates’ pictures on the website.”

It was only then that Amore emailed back that if Lyons wouldn’t use that photo, “then I’d rather not have my picture on the website.”

“If that had been Trump instead of Charlie Baker, he’d have accepted it,” said Amore, adding that Lyons hadn’t even included his name among the GOP candidates.

Amore has ample reason to be skeptical of Lyons. After all, one of Lyons’s state committee allies, John MacDonald, who chairs the party’s outreach effort to veterans, has regularly attacked Amore on Dark Red GOP, a Facebook page featuring an ire-eyed elephant with blood (tears, the site claims) dripping from its tusks. That site is devoted to denouncing RINOs, or Republicans in Name Only, the puerile term the conservative thought constabulary uses to smear any Republican who doesn’t hew to the Trump line.

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And not just denouncing him, but in crude terms, such as MacDonald calling Amore a “piece of RINO excrement.”

“On November 8, blank your vote for anti-Trump RINO Amore,” reads a Tuesday post from MacDonald.

MacDonald, who didn’t return a Globe call, is the public relations manager (ah, those PR skills!) for 1A Auto Parts, the online vehicle-part business run by Baker-loathing Rick Green, a defeated congressional candidate and deep-pocketed ally of Lyons. In Green’s employment, Diehl, now the GOP’s gubernatorial nominee, found a perch that let him pursue politics in a way that would have been infinitely harder during his days as an Uber driver.

“I don’t have control over what John MacDonald does,” said Lyons.

Recounting several other similar incidents, Amore concluded: “The bottom line is, it’s like this constant, concerted effort to keep me out of the game. … And it’s all because of my connection to Governor Baker and my stance as a moderate.”

“I endorse all the Republican candidates,” countered Lyons. “I hope they all win.”

Oh sure, Sneaky Jim, I believe that!

Now, if you’re a Republican who wants to see the GOP play a meaningful role in state politics, or an independent or a Democrat who sees a need for some balance and a watchful set of iconoclastic eyes on Beacon Hill, give Amore your close consideration. He’s a quality candidate.

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Just don’t try to find out about him on the party’s website.


Scot Lehigh is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at scot.lehigh@globe.com. Follow him @GlobeScotLehigh.