STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, APRIL 1, 2014….Republican Mark Fisher appealed to the GOP’s endorsed gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker on Tuesday to intervene with the party on his behalf to have Fisher’s name placed on the primary ballot after his campaign announced it had formally filed a lawsuit challenging the results of the GOP convention.
Fisher was denied access to the ballot after party officials reported that he had fallen six votes short of the required support from convention delegates to qualify. The Fisher campaign said it filed a lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court late Tuesday afternoon against GOP Chairwoman Kirsten Hughes challenging the official tally.
Hughes, in a statement, said that the party was preparing to defend itself against Fisher’s lawsuit and taking steps to set up a legal defense fund and explore whether insurance taken out against the convention would cover the cost of a challenge.
“We are certain the outcome will prove that processes were properly followed in accordance with our rules. Additionally, all ballot challenges were thoroughly and properly adjudicated in an open manner during the Convention with Mr. Fisher’s legal counsel present. Our Party and our candidates remain focused on proposing solutions to restore common sense and balance to Beacon Hill and we look forward to continuing to hear out Mr. Fisher’s issues and to bring the matter to a close,” Hughes said.
Opinions differ within factions of the Republican Party over whether a primary race would be a good test for the eventual Republican nominee. Many Baker supporters and party heavyweights believe their chances of reclaiming the governor’s office will be strengthened if they can unite behind Baker and train their focus and resources on defeating the eventual Democratic nominee – there are also two independents in the contest.
Baker responded to Fisher’s request that he come to the assistance of a would-be primary foe, saying he understands after losing the 2010 gubernatorial race to Gov. Deval Patrick “the disappointment and the frustration” of working hard and coming up just short.
“I respect Mark’s decision to pursue this course of action, and am confident the Party will work to ensure the process was fair and transparent. Should a primary be determined to be the fair resolution, I will welcome it and work hard to win the nomination and then carry my message of making Massachusetts great into the generalelection,” Baker said in a statement.
The lawsuit could become a lingering distraction for Baker, who hoped to emerge from the late March convention emboldened and focused while the Democratic primary process played out.
“The time to unify behind our ticket and work towards making a difference in our communities is now. However, I am aware there are remaining questions regarding the process of endorsing candidates. I have been working to understand our options for resolving this matter in a manner that is within the law and rules of our Party,” Hughes wrote in an email to state committee members on Tuesday.
With Fisher needing to secure 15 percent of the vote, the Tea Party Republican said he received 376 votes, or 15.16 percent, according to the roll call results announced publicly by Senate district from the convention floor.
Fisher contends that his vote total decreased by two votes after party officials reviewed the results backstage at the Agganis Arena, while 54 “blank votes” were added to the total tally, dragging his support under the required 15 percent.
A copy of the lawsuit was not immediately available, but Fisher’s campaign said it was challenging the party’s decision to count “blanks” and seeking an explanation of why the number of blank ballots increased substantially after review. The campaign said MassGOP Executive Director Rob Cunningham denied all requests to review ballots or disclose which districts the additional blank votes came from.
A legal memo shared with the News Service and prepared for the MassGOP by New Jersey attorney Michael Morley at the request of the party’s lawyers laid out what could be the argument for the party to hold firm on its ruling that Fisher failed to qualify for the ballot.
The Morley memo argues that the party chair has the authority to determine what constitutes a vote, and that the party bylaws do not give the chair, the state committee or the executive committee of the party the authority to “modify, revise, or reject the outcome of votes” cast during the convention after a ruling was made and the convention adjourned.
Fisher campaign manager Deb McCarthy said she did not have a copy of the lawsuit, which was filed shortly before the court closed.
Copyright 2014 State House News Service