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    For Lively, a difficult court fight against state GOP

    Republican candidate for governor Scott Lively.
    Winslow Townson/Associated Press/File 2018
    Republican candidate for governor Scott Lively.

    GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Lively must be thinking that his odds have gotten a bit tougher lately as he pursues a $7 million civil lawsuit against Governor Charlie Baker and the state’s Republican Party establishment.

    A former state attorney general with a reputation for tough litigation is on the verge of getting hired by the party, and the case has been assigned to a judge whom Baker appointed six months ago.

    Former attorney general Tom Reilly, a onetime rising Democratic contender for governor until Deval Patrick swept him aside in 2006, is preparing to handle the case in which Lively, best known for his antigay statements, claims the state GOP violated its neutrality rules earlier this year when it ran signature petition drives for Baker.

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    Reilly bolted the Democrats in 2010 and endorsed Baker in his failed run for governor that year and again in 2014.

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    Lively also alleges the party went back on its word when, after its work for Baker was exposed by the Globe, its executive committee voted to change its rules to allow it to endorse the governor for a second term — a process that was supposed to be in the hands of the 2,400 delegates at the April endorsing convention.

    The case has been assigned to a recent Baker judicial appointee, Superior Court Justice Susan Sullivan, who took her seat on the bench in December.

    Baker and his political operatives who run the state party have tried to slough off Lively since he emerged late last year. They tried to crush him at the convention by denying him the 15 percent of the delegate vote need to qualify for the ballot. But Lively shocked the convention by winning 28 percent of the vote, much of which came from disgruntled right-wing factions of the party.

    Baker’s answer to that embarrassing setback was to try to isolate Lively from the party mainstream. “There’s no place and no point in public life, in any life, for a lot of the things Scott Lively says and believes,’’ he told reporters after the convention vote.

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    He has yet to articulate how his harsh comment jibed with the fact that nearly a third of the delegates at his party’s convention backed Lively.

    Frank Phillips can be reached at frank.phillips@globe.com.