One member of the Republican state committee penned a blistering post-Christmas indictment of party leadership in Massachusetts this week, calling for his fellow party leaders to “face the bitter truth” that the state GOP has become “all but irrelevant.”
Steve Aylward, of Watertown, wrote a lengthy e-mail to his fellow committee members lamenting how far party enrollment has fallen and how the party, apart from winning the governor’s office, has not made gains on Beacon Hill since 2010.
“We will stay irrelevant until such time if any that we as a State Committee choose to stop listening to those who are in this thing for their own personal gain, and instead start listening to those who are in it for unselfish reasons,” Aylward wrote.
The letter comes as state Republican chairwoman Kirsten Hughes is preparing to step down after six years leading the party, and as treasurer Brent Andersen and state representatives Peter Durant and Jim Lyons are locked in a race to replace her.
Aylward challenged Hughes for the party chairmanship in 2017, but lost with 30 votes of the 76 cast. He is a conservative activist who partnered with Representative Geoff Diehl in 2014 to repeal a law tying the gas tax to inflation. In an interview, Aylward said he is supporting Lyons for party chair.
Lyons got into the contest last week after Diehl, a darling of the conservative grass roots, opted against running for party chair following his unsuccessful challenge of US Senator Elizabeth Warren this fall.
“We have good representation with Jim,” Aylward said, referring to the anti-establishment wing of the party. Lyons, of Andover, is also preparing to depart from the Legislature next week after losing his re-election campaign to Democrat Tram Nguyen.
Aylward did not directly blame Hughes for what he considers to be the weakness of the Republican Party in Massachusetts, writing that the chairperson in “recent cases” has just been a “front person, put there to carry the water.”
“I lay the blame across the entire spectrum of our leadership,” he said.
Aylward said that for too long Republican Party leaders have blamed the climate in Massachusetts for electoral losses, overlooking successes like Scott Brown’s US Senate win in 2010 or the gas tax ballot campaign that he helped run.
He faulted party leaders for doing a poor job recruiting candidates at the local level, for failing to engage with Republican town committees on a regional basis, and for not being more aggressive about seeking to register voters or have “visibility” in minority communities.
He also said that party enrollment had fallen to “less than 10 percent” and that the base was “disheartened and demoralized.”
“I could go on and on about our failings, why we lose and how our leadership maintains control in spite of those habitual losses. But while we fiddle, the country burns,” Aylward wrote.
Republican Party enrollment was actually 10.3 percent this past general election, according to the secretary of state’s office.
Aylward, however, said he is not a pessimist.
He said he believes it is entirely possible to turn Massachusetts from a “blue state” to a purple one. He also said he is supporting Lyons for party chair because he believes that Lyons understands the importance of engaging with the grass roots of the party without the party turning its back on what has worked for the moderate and popular Governor Charlie Baker.
Aylward has opposed Baker’s political agenda in the past, notably in 2015 when Baker persuaded the party to replace Republican National Committeewoman Chanel Prunier with Representative Keiko Orrall.
“I know there a lot of people in the party who are maybe disappointed in Baker, but he’s the governor and I think Jim showed us you can be for the grass roots while still supporting the governor,” he said, referring to Lyons.
In his e-mail, Aylward didn’t lobby on Lyons’s behalf or even mention the three men running to succeed Hughes as party chair. Instead, he advocated for an approach that would “strike a blow against all of the crazy left-wingers who want nothing more than to destroy the country we love.”
“To crawl out of this darkness, we must always act with the awareness that we are in a war for our beliefs and our country,” he wrote. “Let’s stand by our President, and not be a slave to political correctness. And let’s listen to our constituents and our conscience instead of failed leaders.”