The Primary Objective
by David Trumbull
January 10, 2014
The 2014 Republican State Convention will be held on Saturday March 22nd, at the Boston University Agannis Arena. Election of delegates and alternate delegates to the convention will take place at caucuses in cities and towns between January 11th and February 1st. Anyone who is a registered Republican as of December 1, 2013 is qualified to be a delegate. Interest in the convention has started rising with the news that Charlie Baker, Republican candidate for Governor (his second time, he ran in 2010 as well) will face an opponent for the support of the delegates. Mark Fisher, small businessman, owner of Merchant's Fabrication in Auburn and TEA Party member, announced last month that he, too, is seeking the Republican Party nomination for Governor. Assuming both men garner at least 15 percent support at the Convention and obtain the necessary 10,000 certified signatures on their nomination papers we'll have a Republican primary election to determine the party's nominee.
Already many "establishment" Republicans are calling for Fisher to back down in order to avoid a primary fight. The establishment in the party, for as long as I can remember, has preferred a hand-picked favorite rather than having a primary. They argue that a primary fight wastes resources and that by avoiding a primary the GOP's anointed one can concentrate, from the start, on running for the final, November, election. They are wrong and that kind of thinking is one of the reasons the Republican Party does so poorly in this Commonwealth.
Primaries are good for the party for several reasons.
1. The winning candidate gains the experience from the primary campaign.
2. The press will cover the race rather than using all its ink to cover the Democratic primary.
3. Independent voters who decide to vote in the Republican primary are more likely to vote for a Republican in November. If there is no GOP primary, voters may vote in the Democratic primary and then may have a tendency to stick with the candidate they supported in the primary.
4. While we cannot know who someone votes for in the primary we can know whether they voted in the GOP primary, that gives us a list of independent voters who are favorable to the GOP. The key to winning in Massachusetts is getting the independent vote. Knowing which independents (technically "unenrolled") voters lean Republican is very helpful, but expensive to find out. Here in Massachusetts the Commonwealth will tell you, for free, which unenrolled voters took a Republican ballot.
5. The primary can be a practice run for the November get-out-the-vote effort.
If the objective is to elect more Republicans, then give the voters more opportunities to vote for Republicans. Recruit more candidates for more offices. And have primaries.