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Political Intelligence

GOP chief steps aside for family

Jennifer Nassour, a former state GOP chairwoman, went to a game with her daughters Grace, 5, and Georgia, 8.
Jennifer Nassour, a former state GOP chairwoman, went to a game with her daughters Grace, 5, and Georgia, 8. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)

If you are a Massachusetts Republican, times could hardly be headier.

One of your own, Mitt Romney, has a better-than-good shot of winning the party’s 2012 presidential nomination. US Senator Scott Brown has certifiable rock star status on the national stage and is embarking on a reelection campaign that will probably run second only to the White House race for cash and cache.

On Beacon Hill, your ranks in the Legislature remain small, but you’ve seen the GOP membership in the House more than double from 16 last year to 33 right now.

Which makes it all the more noteworthy that Jennifer Nassour is spending her first weekend with her family since resigning Friday as chairwoman of the Massachusetts Republican Party.

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The 40-year-old, who was schooled in Long Island’s Nassau County politics, ceded the reins of party leadership just as she stood on the cusp of perhaps the most high-profile year of her tenure.

Nassour decided to quit after learning she and her husband, financier C.J. Brucato, would be having their third child in February.

It was a surprise, and when she started thinking about the standard three-month maternity leave, she realized she would not resume her voluntary post until May 2012 - well after the presidential nomination is settled, and after community caucuses had been held to set up the Republican State Convention.

“I couldn’t see how I couldn’t be conflicted between the demands of my newborn baby, my other two children, and the demands of being chairwoman,’’ Nassour said last week. “I would be holding onto the title just to have the title, and I thought it was going to be unfair to the party for me to do that.’’

It is a title that Nassour worked hard to earn, and one for which she did not fit the mold.

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Nassour is a transplant, having moved to Massachusetts 11 years ago from New York.

Her father died of a heart attack when she was 10, forcing her family to move in with her grandparents.

Her mother later pulled her aside and encouraged her to develop a skill so she would never become reliant on others. Nassour took the advice seriously.

She helped pay her way through college, driving home to be a waitress on Friday and Saturday nights and for Sunday brunch. After college, she went to graduate school and law school.

That code of personal responsibility prompted her to register as a Republican, she said. Work as Nassau County Young Republicans president begat jobs for a state senator and the county government.

When she reached Massachusetts, she was struck by the state party’s general apathy. As a state committeewoman, she came back from the 2008 national convention and found almost no ground game to support nominee John McCain.

“I came from a very grassroots background in New York, door-knocking every Friday and Saturday night during an election,’’ Nassour recalled.

That prompted her to run for chairwoman, which she won in early 2009.

Within a year, Brown had won his special election, a new crop of legislative candidates was running for office, and the GOP was funneling money to Charles Baker in his challenge of Governor Deval Patrick.

“I remember doing nine stops one weekend last fall, from Cape Cod to Lowell to Springfield to New Bedford, and a whole bunch of stops in between,’’ Baker said in an e-mail. “She was at all of them, cheering on our candidates and working the crowds.’’

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Today, both Romney and Brown have a stake in the new chairman. Like Nassour, that person will decide how to disperse money from the national party and related entities to state candidates.

Activists say two senior party members, 1998 state treasurer candidate Robert Maginn and former US attorney Frank McNamara, have the inside track to succeed Nassour.

That is no longer her concern.

Yesterday, she woke up at her Charlestown home with a pair of soccer games on her schedule.

In February, she will deliver a new sibling for Georgia, 8, and Grace, 5. Nassour and Brucato will not know until then if it is a boy or girl.

“I like the surprise,’’ she said. “There are no surprises in life. This is the best one.’’


Glen Johnson is lead blogger for Political Intelligence, available online at www.boston.com/politics. He can be reached at johnson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.