US Senate candidate John Kingston, the Winchester businessman who made millions in high finance, kicked up an internal GOP storm when word leaked out that he told a small group of GOP activists meeting Thursday what many in the party suspect: He will have the behind-the-scenes support of Governor Charlie Baker and his political organization in the multi-candidate race for the Republican nomination.
That’s how one member of the Canton Republican Town Committee meeting relates Kingston’s answer to a question about whether Baker was backing longtime party activist and businesswoman Beth Lindstrom.
“He said he fully expects to have Baker’s support,’’ the person, who did not want be quoted by name, told the Globe.
That source said Kingston, saying his answer was “off the record,” claimed that Baker’s team is upset at his major rival for moderate GOP primary voters, Beth Lindstrom, for insisting on running for the Senate and rejecting its requests that she run for state treasurer as part of the governor’s ticket in the 2018 election.
Asked about the incident, a campaign spokesman for Kingston described the statement as inadvertant.
“In a quick series of questions, there was an inadvertent suggestion the governor has given his support to our campaign,” the spokesman said.
“What John meant is he has received overwhelming support from many of the same people across the Bay State who also support the governor, voters who want more leaders who will put results before politics,” the spokesman continued. “He did not mean to imply he was speaking for the governor or his team.”
Baker is trying to walk a fine line among the various state GOP ideological camps as he gets set to seek another term next year.
And indeed, by their reaction, the incident did not appear to be setting well with Baker and aides, who swiftly denied that the governor’s political crew is counting on Kingston, with his personal wealth, to defeat state Representative Geoff Diehl, who has a strong base in the conservative, pro-Trump wing of the party.
“The governor has known and worked with Geoff Diehl, Beth Lindstrom, and John Kingston for a number of years and believes they would each be strong candidates for US Senate,’’ said his chief political strategist Jim Conroy in an emailed statement.
He added: “The governor has stated repeatedly, and all candidates are aware, that he will remain neutral in the primary contest.”
Asked for a comment, Kingston released a statement in which he said he understands the governor is not getting involved in the race. But he did not deny he made the comments at the Canton meeting.
“Governor Baker has been fairly clear he isn’t going to weigh in on this primary,” Kingston said. “I have tremendous admiration for the governor and believe we need more leaders like him who put results for hardworking families above petty politics.”