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Baker Finds “Lively” Competition At Republican Convention

Josh Landes
Governor Charlie Baker accepts his party's endorsement at the DCU Center in Worcester Saturday.

Massachusetts Republicans endorsed incumbent Governor Charlie Baker for a second term at their convention this weekend.

Despite handily capturing his party’s endorsement, it wasn’t entirely smooth sailing for the first-term governor on Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester. His main opponent garnered enough support to force a primary.

“Will the clerk display the tally, please?" asked the convention's MC. "For Charlie Baker, 1,577 votes for 69.7 percent of the vote. For Scott Lively, 626 votes for 27.67 percent of the vote. No preference, 58 votes 2.52 percent. It gives me great pleasure to present to this convention your endorsed candidate for governor of the commonwealth of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker.”

While there was little suspense about the incumbent and his Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito winning a majority, it was the man who came in second who put Baker ill at ease.

“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?" said Baker. "And that’s why I’m pleased that 7 out of 10 delegates in that convention chose us to represent them in the fall.”

“But what does it say about one-third of the party voting for him? What does it say about your party?” asked a journalist.

“I can’t get in the minds of people who made decisions to support us or support anybody else," responded Baker. "But I can tell you that Scott Lively — a lot of what he says, a lot of what he believes — doesn’t belong in public discourse.”

“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 Scott Lively.

Lively is an evangelical pastor and lawyer who vocally opposes gay rights and abortion. While Baker has maintained his centrist credentials in a staunchly liberal state by distancing himself from President Trump, the far right of his party perceives this as a betrayal. Lively’s speech took direct aim at this.

“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 said at the podium Saturday. "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. That’s our president, Donald Trump. You did not do that Charlie Baker, that’s stolen valor.”

Lively’s table at the convention made room for Problem Pregnancy of Worcester, an anti-abortion counseling center for pregnant women, which displayed a series of statues depicting stages of pregnancy in addition to literature and signage.

“Really that’s my number one issue, is standing for the unborn," said Lively. "Really I think that everything else really falls to a distant second and down until we stop the killing of the unborn.”

Lively traveled to Uganda in 2009 to give a series of talks that, among many other claims, blamed homosexuals for the Rwandan genocide. Uganda went on to pass the 2014 Anti-Homosexuality Act, which called for the death penalty in its original version. He also co-authored a 1995 book titled “The Pink Swastika.” The book’s website claims that “the Nazi Party was conceived, organized and controlled throughout its short history by masculine-oriented male homosexuals who hid their sexual proclivities from the public.”

“The media doesn’t even know what I’ve actually written, because there’s never been any fact-checking on my assertions," said Lively. "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.”

Now that he’s on the biggest political stage of his career, Lively addressed his history with gay rights.

“On LGBT issues, I want — I have some fence mending that I need to do with people in the LGBTQ community," Lively told the press. "Mea culpa, I have overstated some things — not so much in my writings, I can defend just about anything I’ve written — but 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.”

Lively claimed he had begun discussions with a gay conservative man to begin the “fence mending.”

Dianna Ploss, a delegate from Gloucester, is the leader of MA 4 Trump, which emerged during the 2016 election. She supported Lively at the convention.

“The Mass GOP and Governor Char-LIE Baker, as I call him, did not support President Trump through the 2016 election," said Ploss. "Governor Char-LIE Baker did not go to the Republican National Convention, he didn’t vote for President Trump.”

Ploss, who was introduced to political activism for the first time in the 2016 election, spent Baker’s speech waving a cardboard cutout of President Trump at the governor while yelling “liar” and “traitor.” Ploss still harbors a grudge against the state party because she claims that Trump supporters weren’t allowed to use the Mass GOP victory offices in 2016.

“Many of us are going to vote for Scott Lively," said Ploss. "He’s a controversial guy, but we want to send Char-LIE Baker and the Mass GOP a message that we matter. When you say that the grassroots matter, right, they always say grassroots — they’re lying. The grassroots don’t matter. They do not matter. Because I was the grassroots, and they kept pushing us away.”

Baker refused to comment on Lively’s call for a debate at the convention. Primary day is September 4th.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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