The head of the state's Republican Party has narrowly won another term amid concerns that the party has lost ground under his leadership.
MassGOP Chairman Jim Lyons was reelected Sunday to a second, two-year term after fending off a formidable challenge from Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk. Lyons, a former lawmaker from Andover who took the helm two years ago, squeaked out a win by a vote of 39-36 among members of the Republican State Committee at a socially-distanced gathering in Littleton.
Lyons is calling for unity after the election. He pledges to work on electing more Republicans and expanding the party's membership in the coming year.
"We've laid out a solid foundation that we’re hoping to implement over the next 24 months," he said in an interview on Monday. "Hopefully the pandemic will ease and we can get out there and start talking to people about our message of freedom, personal responsibility and the free market system."
Dooley challenged Lyons, arguing the that party has "lost its way" under his tenure, with GOP membership dropping to historic lows and a lack of Republican candidates competing in statewide and federal contests.
He also cited Lyons' embrace of President Donald Trump's divisive policies and rhetoric.
Earlier this year, the GOP lost three special legislative races. In the Nov. 3 elections, the party ceded another three seats, while flipping a single House seat previously held by a Democrat.
In the next two-year legislative session, which gets underway next week, there will be 129 Democrats, 30 Republicans and one independent in the House of Representatives.
The state Senate, meanwhile, will have 37 Democrats and only three Republicans.
Some Republican activists have blamed the party's political misfortunes on a heightened focus on national politics as well as its chairman's embrace of divisive social issues and vocal support for the policies of an unpopular president.
But Geoff Diehl, a GOP State Committeeman and former lawmaker, said Lyons deserves credit for "holding the line" on Republican seats on Beacon Hill. He said it will take time for the party to redirect its focus on state and local races.
"Jim has been focused on a restructuring of the party to focus on down-ticket races, and that certainly doesn't happen overnight," he said. "In 2022, we're going to see a much wider field of candidates and results in the elections."
Gov. Charlie Baker, the party's de facto leader, has fallen out with the party's leadership under Lyons' tenure as it has taken a sharp tack to the right on thorny issues such as abortion and, more recently, law enforcement reforms.
Those divisions could complicate Baker's reelection if he decides to seek a third term in 2022.
On Monday, Baker congratulated Lyons on winning a second term as party chairman but said he and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito have been "focused on the state's coronavirus response and end-of-the-legislative-session" issues and "aren't really thinking about election issues at this point."
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for The Salem News and its sister newspapers and websites. Email him at email@example.com.