BOSTON — The state Republican Party ceded more ground on Beacon Hill in the Nov. 3 election, which has some activists calling for a change in leadership.
Gov. Charlie Baker, the party's de facto leader, is riding a wave of popularity and fueling speculation the Swampscott Republican will seek an unprecedented third term when his current one expires in two years.
Elsewhere in the state, Republicans have seen their ranks dwindle to the point of giving Democrats a super-minority in the state House of Representatives and Senate. That is to say, Democrats are not only the majority party, they have enough votes in each chamber to override Baker's vetoes.
The GOP has seen its Beacon Hill membership drop to historic lows, and it has struggled to compete in other statewide and federal contests.
Earlier this year, the party lost three special legislative races. In the Nov. 3 elections, it ceded another three seats, while flipping a single House seat previously held by a Democrat.
Observers say those losses will put more pressure on MassGOP Chairman Jim Lyons, a former lawmaker from Andover who took the helm the party nearly two years ago while pledging to expand its base and win more seats in the Legislature.
Lyons brushes aside the criticism, saying he is confident the party will grow.
"In a year when Democrats were supposed to have this 'blue wave' we basically held serve, and even picked up a House seat," he said. "We’re focused on trying to build the farm team up, and I think we’re going into the 2022 election cycle in a very solid position to be able to increase our ranks in the Legislature."
But GOP activist Ed Lyons, who is no relation to the chairman, blames the party's political misfortunes on a heightened focus on national politics instead of state and local races, and its chairman's embrace of divisive social issues and vocal support for an unpopular president.
He thinks it's time for change in leadership.
"He embraced Trump in the state where Trump did second-worst in the whole country," Lyons the activist said of Lyons the party leader. "He avoided all the top issues voters care about, such as housing, transit, the environment and how to fight the pandemic, in favor of positions on social issues that the majority of voters oppose."
Anthony Amore, a Swampscott Republican who ran for secretary of state in 2018, said he believes the state GOP is facing a crisis.
"As a Republican I'm very concerned about the party's future," he said. "If you look around the country the GOP did pretty well in many state legislative races on Election Day, but here we lost even more ground. It's a bad situation and we need to remedy it."
Amore doesn't blame the party for supporting President Donald Trump's reelection bid, but he says the system is stacked against Republican candidates in Massachusetts, making it difficult to field candidates and raise money to support them.
"It’s everything from when the primary is held to where the names are on the ballot," he said. "They’re all slanted against Republicans, and that’s a product of having an overwhelmingly one-party rule in the Legislature."
Republicans nominated only a handful of candidates to challenge Beacon Hill's Democratic incumbents this fall. That gave more than 100 Democrats a free pass back to the Legislature for another two years.
Locally, Reps. Lenny Mirra, R-Georgetown, and James Kelcourse, R-Amesbury, both fended off Democratic challengers on Nov. 3 to win reelection.
In the upcoming two-year legislative session, which gets underway in January, there will be 129 Democrats, 30 Republicans and one independent in the House of Representatives. The state Senate, meanwhile, will have 37 Democrats and only three Republicans.
That means if Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, decides to seek the minority leader post for another term next, he will only have two other members in his caucus.
Lyons, the activist, said he expects Lyons the chairman to face challengers to keep his post when it comes up for a vote in January.
"Everything he has done has been wrong," he said. "It is time for new leadership that addresses the state issues voters actually care about in a way that will help our candidates gain 51% of the electorate."
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for The Eagle-Tribune and its sister newspapers and websites. Email him at email@example.com