Thoughts on the Political Landscape in Massachusetts
To no one’s surprise, Massachusetts remained one of the bluest of the blue states in the country after the 2022 Midterm election. 11 out of 11 Congressional seats, 133 out of 160 State House seats, and 37 out of 40 seats in the State Senate are in the hands of the Democrat Party. Minority leadership in the State Senate is made up entirely of those 3 members. Every state executive office up for election in 2022 was won by a Democrat, including flipping the most popular governor in the country’s seat from red to blue. The time to rebuild the Massachusetts Republican Party starts now, and unless there is a significant effort to reverse some of the gains made by Democrats in 2022, Massachusetts voters can expect nothing but liberal policies in the coming years.
The reason for this drastic imbalance lies with Jim Lyons, the Chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party. Elected in 2019 and 2021, Lyons has had nothing but a losing track record for Republican candidates. In his 4 years as Chairman, the Massachusetts GOP has lost 3 out of 5 sheriffs, 1 of its 2 district attorneys, has gone from 38 out of 200 seats in the State legislature to 28, is 0-6 in special elections, and 0-18 in Congressional elections. It’s a tough challenge to flip a Congressional or State legislature seat in deep blue Massachusetts, but Lyon’s term would be considered successful if the GOP had prevented Democrats from flipping all those seats in the last 4 years.
Lyons also faces legal trouble for his efforts. According to the Boston Globe, Lyons allegedly conducted opposition research on Governor Maura Healy with an independent expenditure political action committee, a potential violation of state law. The Massachusetts GOP has always claimed to be the more fiscally responsible one in the state, and yet they’re also $86,000 in debt. Luckily, Lyon’s seat is up for grabs on January 31 and the Massachusetts GOP has the opportunity to start over and start fresh as a more unified group.
Over the last 4 years, the Massachusetts GOP has been split between moderate Republicans that backed candidates like former Governor Charlie Baker and hard-line conservatives that support politicians and policies like that of Donald Trump. Some also support repealing the state’s abortion laws. President Biden won almost 66% of the vote in Massachusetts in 2020, even more than Hillary Clinton did in 2016. As much as Massachusetts wants to be like Florida, “where woke goes to die”, the Massachusetts GOP doesn’t stand a chance at winning any seats or passing any policy initiatives with that kind of attitude. Messaging that focuses more on a “MAGA perspective” won’t work with Massachusetts voters and 2022 was clear evidence of that.
The Massachusetts GOP has had plenty of opportunities in the last 4 years to take a more moderate position that balances Democrat and Republican interests: from the Martha’s Vineyard immigration situation, to Boston Children’s Gender affirmation surgeries, to mandated flu vaccines for school children in 2020, to the lawsuit against Harvard for Asian discrimination, the Massachusetts GOP had plenty of chances to take a moderate stance instead of a hard-line conservative one that pushed voters away. In each of these situations, the national conversation can and should have a varied response that includes the most liberal policy solutions to the most conservative ones. But for the Massachusetts GOP, their messaging should have at least attempted to be a more moderate one that appealed to voters.
This needs to be the playbook for the Chairman of the party, whether it’s still Jim Lyons or a new one. The good news is that the partisan balance can’t get much worse from here, as the GOP has so few seats to lose in the Massachusetts legislature. The only way forward is to see an increase in Republican representation, and the clear path to doing so is finding common ground with the plethora of Democrats in office and taking a more moderate stance on policies. The easiest place to start is with the Massachusetts legislature, where districts are small compared to Congressional House and Senate races. The Massachusetts GOP has a long way to go in restoring voter confidence, paying off its debt, and identifying and supporting good candidates. The state probably won’t ever be a swing state, at least not in the near future, but winning small victories over the next few years will create a more balanced conversation in Massachusetts politics.