On the Last Day of January the Massachusetts GOP met in Natick to choose a new chair. It’s the type of mundane task usually without note.
The evening started with much promise for Republicans. Two young dynamic candidates were offered: Rick Green A self-made businessman who built an online auto parts business from scratch and head of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance from Pepperell. Kirsten Hughes former Deputy Finance director for the Scott Brown Campaign and Quincy city councilwomen who has been active in the GOP since her youth.
Things seemed even more promising when before the initial vote the party vice chairwoman announced both candidates had agreed to appoint the other as deputy in order to assist in their dual goal of uniting the party and growing it in a state where the GOP has mere 11% registration…
…and then came the vote.
Each voter was called to the ballot box, they wrote their choice (or no choice at all) on a piece of paper and dropped it in the box. The meeting continued until the count was complete.
The vote, when announced 39 for Hughes and 38 for Green (with three abstentions) among the 80 city committee members eligible to vote, while disappointing to the Green team might have been considered a sign of strength among tea party activists who backed Green and a hopeful first step for the activists who supported him. But then it was revealed that a ballot, the 39th vote for Green was challenged and rejected by the GOP on the grounds that it was marked “R. G”.
As the injured quarterback for the Washington Redskins was not running and the GOP chairman had explicitly stated before the vote the intent of the voter was paramount in determining its legitimacy pandemonium erupted. Activists present saw it as a blatant attempt to steal an election and the uproar resulted in a vote by acclimation to count RG for Rick Green leading to a 39-39 tie and a 2nd ballot.
The drama was not over. After the ballots were cast a 2nd time, but before they were counted, a committee member moved that the second batch of votes NOT be counted and the original 39-38 Hughes win be ratified as correct,, the motion was quickly seconded causing a second even louder uproar to take place, until the Chair ruled that the 2nd ballot vote would be counted.
The already upset Green activists had one more indignity to endure as the outgoing party chairman called Green to announce Kirsten Hughes victory to the assembled audience. Ms. Hughes gave a brief speech and attempted to gavel the meeting closed but the crowd shouted for the vote count. It was not until loud cries repeated calls for the count from the crowd that the 41-39 tally was revealed by the new party Chairwoman.
Congratulations were given and a facade of unity offered but good part of the crowd left angry. One activist declared herself “finished” GOP, but the most telling moment was away from the cameras when another declined a request to write a piece on why tea party members should remain in the GOP.
The party in general and the new party chair in particular have many difficult tasks before them, but if Republicans have any dream of repeating their successes of 2010 the task that comes before all others, is to convince those people to return.