Election 2020

Lively for Governor Divides Massachusetts GOP as he Challenges Pro-LGBT Gov. Baker

Republican candidate for governor Scott Lively addresses the Massachusetts Republican Convention at the DCU Center in Worcester, Mass., on April 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

Jon Fetherson, who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2013 and described himself as a lifelong conservative Republican, said he was “heartbroken” by the nomination of Scott Lively to run against Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker in the GOP’s September primary.

“Enjoy your fifteen minutes of ‘fame’ Dr. Lively. You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time – and you don’t fool me,” Fetherson wrote in a letter to the editor of Mass Live.

Twenty-eight percent of the Massachusetts GOP state convention last weekend may have supported Scott Lively, giving the head of Abiding Truth Ministries more than enough support to put his name on the September GOP primary ballot in opposition to Baker.

But members of the state’s LGBTQ community will oppose Lively, according to John Riley, assistant editor of Metro Weekly.

“For LGBTQ Massachusetts residents, Lively’s candidacy is particularly concerning, given his past anti-LGBTQ statements or political positions,” Riley wrote.

Gov. Baker, who signed legislation allowing people to use the bathroom or locker room of their choice, doesn’t think much of Lively’s positions on gay rights and traditional marriage, either. Lively was sued by Ugandan LGBT activists on the accusation that he collaborated with the Ugandan government in implementing the Anti-Homosexuality Act that declared a penalty of life in prison for gay acts; an original writing of the bill would have levied the death penalty on gays.

“Look, there’s no place and no point in public life, in any life, for a lot of the things Scott Lively says and believes. OK?” Baker told reporters at the end of the weekend convention.

“I’m more interested in the 70 percent of the delegates who supported my message and supported our administration,” Baker added.

Lively told reporters the success of his insurgency candidacy shows that Baker is mistaken.

“I interpret it as a statement of rebuke against Charlie Baker, and a statement of support for authentic conservative values in the Republican Party,” said Lively.

Lively also told reporters that his record has not been covered fairly by the media.

“There’s only the sort of mocking of the premise as if it’s so completely impossible or implausible that it doesn’t even deserve investigation,” said Lively.

However, Lively admitted he has some “fence-mending” to do with Massachusetts’ LGBTQ community.

“Mea culpa, I have overstated some things,” Lively said. “Sometimes, giving a speech, especially when you’re under siege like I have been, and the media is only looking at you and not fact-checking the other side too, sometimes you sort of fall into hyperbole, and I’m guilty of some hyperbole.”

The issue of gay rights isn’t all that separates the incumbent from his challenger. Baker, who refused to commit to debate Lively, is no fan of President Trump.

Baker opposed the Republican healthcare plan and has spoken out against the White House travel ban and immigration policy. He also refused to support Trump in the 2016 election.

“The things he said about women and Muslims and religious freedom, I just can’t support,” Baker said in May 2016.

Lively, on the other hand, told convention delegates Baker taking credit for Massachusetts’ economic revival was a case of “stolen valor.”

“Charlie, you were talking a lot about – you were taking a lot of credit for a lot of economic, positive economic changes that have taken place here in Massachusetts,” Lively told delegates from the convention podium.

“But I’m telling you, there is only one man in this nation that’s responsible for the economic miracle that we’ve experienced since the election of 2016,” Lively said, “that’s our president, Donald Trump.”

Dianna Ploss, one of the delegates who supported Lively at last weekend’s convention, heads up the MA 4 Trump organization that was formed during the 2016 election.

WAMC reported Ploss is still upset because, she claimed, the state GOP didn’t let Trump’s supporters use the Republican Party’s victory offices in 2016.

“The Mass GOP and Governor Char-LIE Baker, as I call him, did not support President Trump through the 2016 election,” said Ploss. “Many of us are going to vote for Scott Lively. He’s a controversial guy, but we want to send Char-LIE Baker and the Mass GOP a message that we matter.”

So Lively has already alienated gays and divided the Massachusetts GOP. Here come the Democrats, right?

Possibly, but not in the way you might think.

Joe Battenfeld, a Boston Herald columnist, suggested Baker could use Lively “as a foil” to swing moderate Democrats to his side.

Baker can be a fiscal conservative to win Republican hearts, Battenfeld opined, who also likes executing people who kill police and will work to block making Massachusetts a sanctuary state.

“But Baker can also tack to the left,” Battenfeld advised, “attempting to win over Democratic voters who comprise about 35 percent to 40 percent of the electorate. Having Lively on the far right wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen to Baker’s image.”

That could be enough to push Baker into another term as governor because, as Democratic Party strategist Mary Ann Marsh told Politico in January, “None of the Democrats running against (Baker) right now can beat him.”