The Massachusetts Republican Party has agreed to pay former Tea Party gubernatorial candidate Mark Fisher $240,000 to settle his legal suit that alleged the party manipulated the state convention to bar him from the primary ballot.
Party chairwoman Kirsten Hughes confirmed that the GOP leadership agreed to the sum, but strongly rejected any notion that the party was conceding that Fisher’s charges were valid. She said the party’s mounting legal bills prompted them to seek a settlement.
“He didn’t have a case,’’ she said. “But sometimes it is far better to take the losses and move on.”
She said the party has already spent $170,000 in legal fees.
Fisher said it was clear to him that party leaders, who had insisted they acted properly at the convention, wanted to end the legal proceedings, which had just begun to involve sworn testimony, because evidence would show that his assertions were true.
“The Massachusetts GOP never wanted that testimony and the tally sheets from the delegations to come out,’’ he said.
Party leaders insist that evidence would prove they acted correctly.
Fisher filed his suit shortly after the GOP’s March state convention.
The initial count on the convention floor showed Fisher winning just enough delegates to get over the 15 percent hurdle necessary to qualify for the primary ballot. But when party leaders, with Fisher’s aides observing, counted the ballots in the back rooms, he fell just below that threshold by a handful of votes.
The issue exploded in early May when lawyers for the state party disclosed that Fisher had demanded $1 million to drop the suit. Fisher’s lawyer argued that the amount was only a starting point for negotiations.
Facing mounting pressure, the party leadership agreed to place Fisher’s name on the September ballot. But his candidacy never caught fire with the GOP rank-and-file. Charlie Baker, the party establishment’s favorite, handily beat him.
Fisher said part of the funds will go to paying his $140,000 in legal costs. The rest will cover other costs he incurred including damage to his campaign — mainly its ability to raise funds — and that of gathering signatures to get on the ballot, a cost the party would have normally covered.
The party paid the first installment, $25,000, on Wednesday. The remainder must be paid by December.
Fisher said that when he decided to challenge Baker in the primary, his Tea Party colleagues warned him about the “liberal media,” which they said would be intent on undermining his candidacy.
“What’s frustrating to me as a conservative, here I was a Republican candidate for governor being opposed by the party and even some of the conservatives — not the liberal media,’’ he said.
“It’s disheartening,” he said.