Pent-Up Passions Erupt At GOP State Committee Meeting

The promise of high drama at last night’s Republican State Committee (RSC) meeting contributed to its late start due to the standing-room-only crowd. By the time GOP State Committee Chair Jennifer Nassour gaveled the meeting to order around 7:15 PM in a small conference room at the Newton Marriott, one could feel the tension of the moment shooting its way through the crowd. State Committeewoman & RSC Secretary Cynthia Stead even declared after taking the roll call vote (with 17 members absent) that the crowd assembled before her had reflected the “best attendance” that she had seen “in two years.”

The first sign of contentiousness occurred after State Committeeman & RSC Treasurer Brent Andersen issued his report before the committee. State Committeeman Bernard Greene pointedly asked Andersen why the report’s attached spreadsheet failed to list “income by source” & “expenses by category,” adding that he received “more information from the FEC & the OCPF” about the line items in question “than what I’ve gotten from you.” Other state committee members quickly weighed in with their own questions. Andersen sought to keep his answers brief & quickly left the podium once the Q & A period was finished.

Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson asked & was allowed to address the membership. He acknowledged that his recent re-election was “a tough one” due to the concerted efforts by Democrats to have him ousted. Hodgson praised his Bristol County supporters as well as the Republican activists for making his re-election possible. He took particular pains to state how “proud” he was of the state GOP. In particular, Hodgson singled out for high praise Nassour and her staff for providing to him “tremendous technical support” which in his mind made it possible to have the “huge” victory that he enjoyed on Election Day 2010. In his closing comments, Hodgson pleaded before the packed crowd to “stay united” as a party in order for the GOP to take advantage of the gains the party made this past election cycle.

In her report as Chair, Nassour quickly recounted in detail the highlights of the year from Scott Brown‘s success in winning the US Senate seat after it became open following the death of Ted Kennedy to the gains made by the party after Election Day 2010 came & went. Nassour gave a forceful, point-by-point positive assessment of the Election Day 2010 results. She pointed out that no incumbent GOP incumbent had lost re-election, that the party had 25 wins while the Democrats suffered 12 losses, that the past election had reversed a 20 year decline in the fortunes of the GOP, that a 5th Republican had been elected sheriff (Lew Evangelidis), that two Republicans were elected to the Governor’s Council (Charles Cipollini & Jennie Caissie), and that Republican Sandra Wright narrowly defeated Democrat incumbent Timothy McMullen for Plymouth County Commissioner. After her presentation was complete, Nassour introduced five (5) of the newly-elected House Republicans who were in attendance & were given a standing ovation by the membership. Nassour also introduced those Republicans in attendance (13) who ran but lost either in the GOP primary or in the general election. They, too, were given a standing ovation.

Nassour concluded her remarks by reiterating the party-building efforts undertaken during her tenure thus far. She reminded her audience that the state party provided innumerable hours of training for both GOP activists in general & Republican candidates in particular, technical assistance to all Republican candidates running for office & targeted donations for those Republicans who met certain metrics. She said 100 newly re-organized GOP town committees were up & running and promised to reactivate under a hundred more now that the election was over. Nassour stressed the strategic nature of her work in laying down the foundation for the state party which she felt would pay significant dividends in the election cycles to follow. She also pointed out that the large amount of races contested by Republican challengers forced the Democrat Party to stay in Massachusetts & play defense instead of going on offense by assisting members of their party outside of the state via donations, technical support, & extra bodies.

With the conclusion of her presentation, Nassour was given a polite round of applause. However, several voices dissented over aspects of her presentation. State Committeeman Mike Potaski challenged Nassour over her statement that Republican candidates had received support from the party. He claimed the candidacies of some GOP challengers suffered due to a lack of funds. Nassour countered that resources were promised but NOT funds & that she disagreed with the premise of Potaski’s comments. Several state committee members raised other concerns but the Q & A portion of the agenda quickly ended.

Neither Ron Kaufman nor Jody Dow as the state party’s national committee representatives were in attendance but Dow’s report was given a quick summary by State Committeewoman Jeanne Kangas while no one volunteered a similar effort on Kaufman’s behalf. The reports given by the regional chairs and representatives from the state party’s standing committees were quickly made to the membership.

Under the “new business” portion of the agenda, State Committeeman Bill McCarthy asked to make a motion in which the state committee would vote to remove its current chair & that the vote would be done through a secret ballot. State Committeeman Andersen immediately issued a point of order stating that McCarthy was squeezing two motions into one & that (in any case) the motion in question was an improper one. The state party parliamentarian & counsel, both of whom approached the podium in order to address the membership, agreed with Andersen. The parliamentarian in particular said that McCarthy failed to go through the proper procedures as outlined in Article III, Section III of the State Committee Bylaws regarding the removal of officers. McCarthy disagreed, claiming he had sent a notice in the form of an e-mail.

A verbal skirmish erupted between McCarthy, the parliamentarian, & the state committee lawyer. Tempers flared among the membership with several committee members stating the motion had no validity because it wasn’t listed on the evening’s agenda. [State Committeewoman Stead said that as the motion wasn’t properly sent to her as the state party secretary.] Others pointed out that the motion received no second & was thus void. Some observers in the audience vented their emotions so audibly that Nassour was forced to pound her gavel & reminded said audience members that the discussion underway was between ONLY members of the state committee. State Committeewoman Karen MacNutt sought to cool passions by focusing on alternative approaches to the issue. She was told that Acticle V, Section III of the Bylaws laid out an alternative process for disaffected members. If 15 members agreed to have a special meeting, a formal notice of removal had to be issued to the full committee in a timely manner & that a quorum had to exist at said special meeting before the vote for removal could commence. At this juncture, members were becoming testy over the absurdity of calling a special meeting to remove the current chair when said chair would be up for re-election in January 2011. The membership loudly applauded State Committeeman Ricardo Barros when he not only defended Nassour’s integrity but chided those members of the party whose public attacks on her & her character would be gleefully exploited by the Democrats. “Please don’t give aid & comfort to our enemies,” pleaded Barros.

With no other new business to discuss, a motion was made & quickly seconded to end the meeting. A sizable group of committee & audience members quickly retired to the nearby restaurant/bar & broke out into small groups to gossip about what had just transpired, what it signified for the party, or what impact it would have on the party going into the January 2011 RSC meeting & the next statewide election in 2012.

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