The beleaguered Massachusetts Republican Party may have a new leader, but the party’s internal divisions are as apparent, and as ugly, as ever.
At a Thursday evening meeting of the Republican State Committee, a packed agenda devolved into some five hours of shouting matches and contentious debate, as the body convened for its first formal meeting in well over a year. Seemingly routine discussions over ratifying new members and approving a budget broke down into proxy battles between ideological conservatives disappointed over the ouster of former GOP Chairman Jim Lyons, and more moderate members supportive of new Chairwoman Amy Carnevale, according to several Republicans in attendance.
“It was just utter chaos,” said Mike Valanzola, a state committee member who has been supportive of Carnevale. “Last night we spent the entire evening in circular battles on old legacy issues from the Lyons era ... not focused on electing Republicans.”
“The real winner,” he added, “was the Democrats.”
Plagued for years by internal divides, the state party has struggled with dwindling fund-raising and vote share, and lost every race it ran last fall for statewide office and Congress. Carnevale was elected earlier this year on a pledge to bring the party together and turn around state Republicans’ record of electoral failure. But months into her tenure, the party is still battling six-figure debts and contending with campaign finance probes from state and federal regulators.
Carnevale — who brought in a parliamentarian from the Republican National Committee to ensure procedures were followed at a meeting she knew would be contentious — acknowledged that Thursday’s gathering was far from smooth. But she said some Republicans needed an opportunity to air their grievances after years of internal strife. The party had not convened a formal meeting since 2021 after proceedings were disrupted by a quorum break and a boycott.
“There were a number of members who needed to express their views about how difficult the last couple of years have been,” Carnevale said. “We had a lot of difficult items on the agenda. I was anticipating it would be a difficult meeting.”
Now, she added, “I think the meetings moving forward will be much more positive and focused on our mission.”
Carnevale also pointed to a number of votes taken Thursday that she said signaled progress for Massachusetts Republicans.
Party members voted Thursday to drop a lawsuit Lyons had brought against Treasurer Pat Crowley, ending one internal battle. The state committee tabled proposals to remove two members — one in each faction of the party — in what some Republicans saw as an encouraging sign of compromise. And the body formally ratified a slate of newly elected members, bringing the 80-member body back to full strength for the first time in years.
Carnevale said she is focused on fund-raising and supporting down-ballot candidates, including Republicans seeking a state Senate seat near Worcester in an upcoming special election. The party recently held a fund-raiser with RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel and has scheduled a fund-raiser with former governor Charlie Baker for later this month.
Massachusetts Republicans are also working to schedule a fund-raiser in July with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, according to a source close to the party who asked to remain anonymous because the event details have not been finalized.
Pointing to past fund-raising efforts, Republicans supportive of Carnevale said they are hopeful she can steer the party back to financial stability and success at the ballot box.
Thursday’s gathering did not bring the productive discussions of a cooperative state party, Republicans acknowledged. But still, state committee member Jaclyn Corriveau, after years of canceled meetings and discord, remarked, “at least we can have a meeting.”