By Michael Norton
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, NOV. 10, 2011…..In the race for Massachusetts Republican Party chair, businessman Bob Maginn is drawing support from a long and expanding list of high-profile backers, from U.S. Sen. Scott Brown to former Gov. Paul Cellucci, but a group of House Republican freshmen are pulling for Maginn’s opponent, former federal prosecutor and self-described underdog Frank McNamara.
“It’s a real dogfight,” McNamara told the News Service. “It’s gut-check time for the state committee.”
In an endorsement list posted on his website, Maginn names former Congressman Peter Blute, former GOP chair and Congressman Peter Torkildsen, national GOP committeeman Ron Kaufman and committeewoman Jody Dow, and sheriffs Lew Evangelidis and Frank Cousins. He also lists 2010 GOP nominee for governor Charles Baker, former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, House Minority Leader Bradley Jones, Congressional candidate Richard Tisei and 14 House Republicans.
“I certainly hope he has an edge,” Jones said of Maginn, saying he’s been working hard to win over the 80-member state committee and describing him as best able to raise the funds Republicans will need to compete in a state where they remain vastly outnumbered by Democrats and unenrolled voters.
McNamara, 63, who touts his conservative principles and appointment as a U.S. attorney in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan, recently won the endorsement of 11 Republican members of the Massachusetts House. Kamal Jain, who ran for auditor last year, is also running.
McNamara’s supporters include Rep. Daniel Webster of Pembroke and the group of House freshmen swept into office last year who have occasionally split to the right of their colleagues. McNamara describes Maginn’s support as “top down” and claims he’s most capable of building the GOP grassroots.
Republicans plan a party meeting at the Newton Marriott Wednesday for an opportunity to meet and greet the candidates vying to succeed Jennifer Nassour, who stepped down from the post late last month.
Party officials expect to reconvene on Nov. 30 to vote for the next chair, who will leap into an election year mix featuring Democrats hoping to deny Brown a full six-year term. Republicans are looking to reelect Brown, crack into the state’s Congressional ranks while running in reconfigured districts, build on gains in the Massachusetts House, and prevent the party from reaching near extinction in the state Senate. Republicans currently hold 33 House seats and four in the Senate.
On his web site, Maginn notes that he is an Evangelical Christian who is active in his church and community, a “fiscal and social conservative” who would push job creation, transparency and fiscal discipline issues, and says he would not take a salary if elected chairman.
Maginn said he hopes the scheduling of the election for chairman on Nov. 30 will enable him, if he’s successful, to raise $15,000 from individuals before the end of year, and go back to those same donors next year for the same amount.
Maginn now works as chairman and CEO of Jenzabar, a software company with offices in Boston, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia that he describes as an “enterprise solution provider.” He was unavailable for comment Thursday.
In 1998, Democrat Shannon O’Brien trounced Maginn to win the race for state treasurer, slamming him at the time for working for the “KGB of business consulting firms,” Bain and Company, where former Gov. Mitt Romney gained much of his business experience. Maginn’s 1998 campaign was chaired by former Treasurer Joe Malone and O’Brien portrayed Maginn that year as a Malone clone.
In a web video, Maginn said the race helped him learn “what it’s like to run down-ticket.” He said he took a year off from his job and traveled the state, noted his company employs 300 people and works with students and universities, and said he’s dedicated to human rights and humanitarian work.
McNamara, an attorney at Bowditch & Dewey and a father of 12, told the News Service last month that Republicans need to articulate a “clear and compelling conservative message” next year, raise substantial funds and reinvigorate the party’s “broken” city and town committees.
McNamara said he raised more than $1 million in 1982 while running as a Reagan Republican against Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, who McNamara refers to as “the Nancy Pelosi of his day.”
A Providence native raised in Concord, McNamara attended Harvard College and the University of Virginia Law School and served as a Navy officer during the Vietnam War. He worked as an associate at the Boston firm of Choate, Hall & Stewart, then as assistant general counsel at Boston Gas. In 1982, he co-founded the Boston firm of Vena, McNamara, Truelove & Lahey. After serving as U.S. attorney, he returned to private law practice and founded the Marlborough trial practice McNamara & Associates. With Bowditch & Dewey, he focused on business litigation, criminal defense and personal injury law.
In a letter in which they said they were “fully committed” to McNamara’s candidacy, the 11 House Republicans wrote, “After spending time with Frank, we have come away impressed by his personal character, excited by his expansive political agenda, and struck by his ability to articulate his practical vision. He has a keen understanding of the importance of fielding strong legislative candidates as a means of developing an experienced Republican ‘farm team’ for the future.”
“My intention is to get the elephant off its knees and to reinvigorate the Republican Party starting at the ground up,” McNamara said Thursday, claiming statewide candidates will benefit from a ground game.
Rep. Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica) noted Thursday that McNamara stands out, in part, because he was appointed as a U.S. attorney by Reagan. “Bob can’t say the same,” Lombardo said.
Asked if the high-profile endorsements for Maginn tilted the contest in his favor, Lombardo said McNamara had generated momentum among state committee members who will decide the race.
“I think Frank McNamara’s in a steady lead and is in a great position to win the chairmanship,” said Lombardo. “I know the commitments he has received.” Lombardo said McNamara’s fundraising connections were as good as Maginn’s and said his vision and message were on target.
Saying “Republicans who want to be incumbents are no better than Democrats who already are,” McNamara said the party should recognize the “tectonic shift” in recent years. He described that shift as away from traditional liberal-conservative fault lines and toward the so-called 99 percent versus the 1 percent, or what he called the struggle between “citizen populists versus the elites.”
“This is not your grandfather’s or your father’s GOP. There’s new blood,” said McNamara. “There’s new energy. People are drawing the line and they want change.”
McNamara sounded undeterred by the powerful elected officials lined up behind Maginn.
“The folks who endorsed Martha Coakley were very powerful,” McNamara said. “Nobody gave Scott Brown a chance when he launched his campaign, but he was the Scott heard round the world. I’m in this to win. Whether I will or not will depend upon the members of the state committee, who themselves need to look deep within themselves and decide whether they want change or whether they are content to go along with the old tired paradigm that has rendered the GOP powerless for most of my lifetime.’
Jones said Maginn has been very active in the party and is best qualified to raise campaign funds. “We’re going into an election where resources and the ability to generate resources is going to be a key component,” Jones said.
Jones declined to say Maginn had the inside track to the chair. “I certainly don’t think anything’s locked up until there’s a majority of people coming out that say they’re voting one way or the other,” he said.
Asked about the significance of the 10 House freshmen splitting with colleagues who are lining up behind Maginn, Lombardo said, “The very common theme that you see is we are all people who said we were not going to be coming to Beacon Hill and become part of the status quo and part of the problem.”
Jones, asked if the split represented a divide among Republicans, said, “I certainly hope not.” He also suggested McNamara might have done legal work for some of his supporters.
In addition to Webster and Lombardo, other representatives signing the letter of support for McNamara include Reps. Paul Adams of Andover, Peter Durant of Spencer, Geoff Diehl of Whitman, Kevin Kuros of Uxbridge, Steven Levy of Marlborough, Nicholas Boldyga of Southwick, Jim Lyons of Andover, Shaunna O’Connell of Taunton, and Keiko Orrall of Lakeville.
House freshmen supporting Maginn include Reps. Richard Bastien of Gardner, Angelo D’Emilia of Bridgewater, Kim Ferguson of Holden, Sheila Harrington of Groton, Steven Howitt of Seekonk, George Ross of Attleboro, David Vieira of Falmouth and Donald Wong of Saugus.
McNamara said he plans to debate Jain Sunday at the Knights of Columbus in Worcester and that he hoped Maginn would join them.