Fisher defeated in bid to lead conservative group

Mark Fisher says he voted for independent Scott Lively in November

In this photo taken on Saturday, March 22, 2014, Mark Fisher, the tea party hopeful in the Republican gubernatorial nomination process, waves to before delivering his address to attendees at the Massachusetts Republican state convention in Boston. Fisher is suing the State GOP contesting the decision not to include him on the party's primary ballot. Party officials said Fisher received 14.765 percent of the delegate vote, just shy of the 15 percent required. The party counted blank votes toward the total. Had those not been included, Fisher would have qualified. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

BOSTON (State House News Service) – Mark Fisher, who soundly lost the Republican gubernatorial nomination to Charlie Baker in September, did not vote for his party’s standard-bearer in November, choosing instead an unenrolled pastor who advocated for a more biblically based government.

“I couldn’t see voting for somebody who can’t stand on the platform,” said Fisher, who noted that independent candidate Scott Lively has reportedly returned to the Republican Party. He said, “Of all the candidates that were there, Scott aligned most with what I believe and hold.”

Baker was sworn in as governor last Thursday, and over the weekend Fisher lost a bid to lead the Massachusetts Republican Assembly, which bills itself as the “Republican Wing of the Republican Party.”

In a phone interview last month, Fisher told the News Service he saw little difference between Baker and Democratic nominee Martha Coakley.

“I guess it didn’t matter to me whether Martha won or Charlie won,” Fisher said.

Fisher said he is moving forward with his lawsuit against the state Republican Party over the organization’s alleged attempts to keep him off the ballot.

Fisher was defeated in his bid for the presidency of MARA on Saturday during a convention in Worcester.

“I’ve been there for years, and Fisher was relatively new,” said Mary Lou Daxland, who won the presidency. A Westport Republican who donated to Fisher’s gubernatorial campaign, Daxland said she has helped build the assembly up since 2009 and predicted that narrow losses will translate into victories as more people who have been disappointed with the state party’s moderate outlook join MARA.

Daxland said she also voted for Lively, and said she was “OK with” Baker’s victory and glad that Coakley lost.

“The reason I did that was I believe that we need to vote our conscience, and because I’m a conservative. Too many times we’ve gone into the voting booth and said, ‘I’m going to vote the lesser of two evils,’ ” Daxland told the News Service. She said voters “continue to just leave our religion and faith at the door.”

Fisher received around 15 percent of delegates’ support at the March convention and was granted access to the ballot after suing the party. He took 25 percent of the Republican primary vote on Sept. 9, winning 40,240 votes statewide.

The Shrewsbury resident said he has no interest in running for the House following the resignation of former Shrewsbury Republican Rep. Matthew Beaton, who is now Baker’s secretary of energy and the environment.

Lively, a controversial figure for his anti-gay activism, endorsed Fisher in the Republican primary and said he would drop out of the race if Fisher won. Baker, whose brother is gay, admonished Lively at a Springfield debate in September, saying his words were “offensive.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center maintains a page on Lively, calling him a “veteran of the anti-gay movement,” and identifying him as a backer of anti-gay policies in Uganda and Russia.

Fisher, who said he was aligned with Lively on taxes as well as “moral” issues of marriage and abortion, said the Springfield pastor’s controversial profile was not part of his consideration.

Baker spokesman Tim Buckley declined to comment on Fisher’s vote.

“That didn’t enter in at all,” Fisher said. Fisher said in 2010 he voted for Tim Cahill, the former Democrat-turned-independent. That year Baker lost in his bid to unseat Gov. Deval Patrick.

Fisher’s lawsuit against the Republicans will determine whether the party owes him damages for allegedly trying to block him from the ballot. He said discovery is set to end early this year, and he is eager to see delegate tally sheets that he believes are integral to his case.

Democrats dominate most Massachusetts politics, holding wide majorities in the House and Senate as well as every other statewide office besides governor and lieutenant governor. The Bay State’s congressional delegation is entirely composed of Democrats. Baker, who served in two previous Republican administrations, has appointed Democrats to several posts in his administration.

While Republicans made some gains in the House and Senate in November, all of the state and federal candidates identified as Massachusetts Republican Assembly members lost their bids for office.

“The margin is getting narrower in certain districts in this state,” Daxland said. She said, “If you articulate that conservative message you’re going to win. You’re going to win eventually.”

The former MARA president, Dave Kopacz, claimed in an email to the News Service that Daxland and a “small contingency of Baker supporters” manipulated the convention rules using “establishment GOP tactics” to “seize the President’s seat.”

“It’s a convention. There’s going to be people that disagree,” said Daxland, who said Kopacz “misrepresented” what transpired at the convention. A retired housewares buyer for department stores, Daxland said she won 74 to 46 and said there were two clear camps.

The Republican Assembly has no official ties to the state Republican party and operates under different campaign finance rules than the party. Daxland said at the end of last year the organization’s members numbered close to 200.

Fisher said he wishes he had a chance to give Baker a more serious challenge in the primary, noting he debated Democrats and independents more than he debated his fellow party-member.

“For all intents and purposes there was no primary,” Fisher said.

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