MA: New leadership for state GOP coming

September 20, 2011

Matt Murphy

BOSTON (State House News Service) – Looking to build on its gains in the Massachusetts House, hold the Senate seat Scott Brown won in 2010, and help the effort to defeat President Barack Obama, the state Republican Party will head into the next election cycle with new leadership.

Expecting her third child early next year, Republican State Party Chairwoman Jennifer Nassour announced Monday that she would be stepping down in October to focus on her family.

“I do not make this decision lightly or without a great deal of thought. I believe for the good of my family and the Party, this is absolutely the right decision,” Nassour said in a statement, describing herself and her husband C.J. as “thrilled beyond words” at the prospect of adding to their family. The couple already has two daughters, and is expecting their third child in February.

Nassour said she planned to formally resign on Oct. 28, and GOP officials said that the party’s bylaws require a new chairperson to be elected within 60 days from that date. The Republican State Committee has a meeting scheduled for January when they are likely to vote on a new chair, officials said.

Elected to the post in January 2009 to succeed former Congressman Peter Torkildsen, Nassour said she leaves the party “debt free with money saved for candidates in 2012” and an “active” grassroots field and candidate training operation in place.

“While I will no longer be chairman, I will continue to be a loyal Republican and supporter of our candidates. I will forever be grateful to you, the Republican State Committee members, who were supportive and helpful as we took an anemic Party apparatus and re-energized it,” Nassour said.

Under her leadership, the party doubled its membership in the Massachusetts House last year, but Nassour was also forced to fend off calls from some corners of the party for her ouster after Republicans endured a beat-down at the polls last November in statewide and Congressional contests, including the governor’s race, where the party failed to gain a single seat despite widespread voter frustration and a national anti-Democrat wave.

The party boosted its ranks in the state House of Representatives from 16 to 32.

Despite the mixed results, she was re-elected overwhelmingly in January to a new two-year term with 75 percent of the vote. She defeated Worcester committee member William McCarthy on a vote of 50 to 16.

In her letter to the state committee Monday, Nassour said the party next year would need a chairman able to commit to “long hours” on fundraising and campaigning.

The race for the U.S. Senate seat held by Sen. Scott Brown tops the ballot here next year, which will also feature races for Congress and state House and Senate, with candidates expected to run in districts that will be redrawn this fall. Former Gov. Mitt Romney is also in the thick of the fight for the Republican Party presidential nomination.

“Being the Mass Republican Party chairman is often a thankless job with long hours and a lot of responsibility and I think the Jennifer Nassour did an excellent job given the circumstance. She brought a lot of newer younger people into the party,” said Barney Keller, the former communications director for the MassGOP under both Torkildsen and Nassour.

Keller said bringing a newcomer on board in advance of the 2012 elections would not hurt the party’s chances of winning races next fall, explaining that party chairmen often get little credit for positive advances, and all of the blame when things go wrong at the ballot box despite limited ability to raise money or influence races.

“It’s irrelevant. The only way this could hurt the party is if they pick the wrong person. The only way the party’s going to be revolutionized is if someone with new ideas and a lot of money comes and runs for office and brings new activists to the party,” he said.

Rob Eno, the publisher of the conservative blog Red Mass. Group, said he believes Nassour did a “great job” as chairwoman, mentioning the gains in the House. However, Eno said he had “no idea” who might be on the short list to replace Nassour.

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