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Top Mass. GOP supporters sidelined by Trump concerns

Former Republican lieutenant governor Kerry Healey has said she can’t vote for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. William B. Plowman/Associated Press

Former Republican lieutenant governor Kerry Healey says she can’t vote for Donald Trump.

Putnam Investments chief executive Robert Reynolds, a loyal GOP backer, said he is “focused on the House and Senate campaigns.”

And private equity veteran Scott Sperling, a major Hillary Clinton fund-raiser in 2008 and Mitt Romney supporter in 2012, has not yet embraced a candidate.

“I just don’t see myself being there at this point for either candidate,’’ said Sperling, co-president of Thomas H. Lee Partners in Boston.

For many Republican-leaning business executives in Massachusetts, known in the past for vocal political positions and deep pockets, this is a tortured election season that has them sitting on the sidelines.


“I don’t worry about Donald Trump launching a nuclear missile or wreaking havoc for Wall Street,’’ Sperling said. But he does worry about the Republican nominee’s off-the-cuff remarks.

Doug Clifford, left, argued with Darrell Crate, chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, right, on the steps of the State House in 2004.Michael Dwyer/Associated Press/File

“It’s not my style, and I think it’s one of the things that makes him someone that lots of people can’t support,” said Sperling, who is no fan of the Obama administration’s financial regulations, which he believes Clinton will continue.

It’s a microcosm of the dilemma Republicans around the country have faced: deciding what to do about Trump.

Nationally, Republican figures including former Treasury secretary Henry Paulson and Hewlett-Packard executive Meg Whitman have shifted their support to Clinton in the wake of some of Trump’s controversies. Boston’s largest hedge fund manager, Seth Klarman, who ordinarily supports GOP candidates, also has defected to Clinton.

But for many in this state’s financial sector — who rallied around Romney in the last cycle — there is no appealing choice this year.

Healey, who served as lieutenant governor under Romney and is now president of Babson College in Wellesley, said in an interview that she is leaning toward the Libertarian ticket, which includes former Massachusetts governor William Weld.


“As a lifelong Republican who has deeply conservative values concerning the economy and foreign policy, it is a painful and difficult decision not to support our candidate,’’ she said. “But I cannot vote for Donald Trump.”

Her reasons: “Trump’s arrogant and offensive verbal assaults on veterans and their families, the disabled, women, Hispanics, immigrants, and anyone who dares to question his opinions,” she said, “reveal a deeply flawed personal character.”

She added: “His ignorance of our Constitution is unforgivable in a candidate for president.”

As to whether casting a ballot for Weld is a throw-away vote, Healey said, “It’s the only scenario that seems to offer an alternative to those of us who feel caught in the middle.”

Scott Sperling, Betsy Nabel, and John Fish attended the Brigham and Women's Palm Beach dinner in this file photo.Lucien Capehart Photography

Others, though, are just avoiding the topic of politics in a particularly divisive year. Privately, a number of Republicans and Democrats in Boston financial circles are predicting that more people will move toward Clinton, casting a ballot, if not writing a check.

Abigail Johnson, chief executive of Fidelity Investments, supported Jeb Bush last fall, but it’s not yet known whom she’ll support next. Construction magnate John Fish wrote checks to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida before the primary. He was unavailable for comment this week.

Better evidence of where the city’sexecutives stand should come later this month, when the next round of fund-raising reports for presidential campaigns and SuperPACs are due at the Federal Election Commission.

Amid the uncertainty, some party stalwarts are standing their ground. Jerry Jordan, a longtime Boston investment executive and GOP donor, was a co-chair of a Trump fund-raiser over the weekend on Cape Cod at the home of billionaire Bill Koch.


Darrell Crate, an investment executive who formerly oversaw the Massachusetts Republican Party and served as a Romney campaign official, said he is supporting Trump.

“Fundamentally, I’m in the camp of, disruption in government is good. We do need a new path,’’ Crate said in an interview. “It’s very clear that Donald Trump is laying out a different path.”

Beth Healy can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @HealyBeth.