Following Saturday’s Republican state convention, where the Massachusetts Republican Party endorsed gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker, Mark Fisher, a small business owner fighting for the Republican nomination for governor, is seeking legal representation against MassGOP for allegedly not following convention rules.
At the convention, which took place at Boston University’s Agganis Arena, Baker received 2,095 of the 2,533 delegate votes. Fisher, who received 374 delegate votes, or 14.765 percent, needed 15 percent of the total votes to force a primary between the two Republican candidates. Final tally results were not released to the public until after all challenges were resolved in the tally room after the adjournment of the convention.
Rob Cunningham, executive director of MassGOP, said all portions of the ballot process were followed, and any occurrences of human error were resolved in the tally room.
“The ballot process was clearly explained to both campaigns and to the state committee members who were responsible for polling their districts,” he said. “I can understand how it could have been confusing to people attending the convention, but … I feel very confident that the parliamentarian rejected any potential blanks that were erroneously recorded.”
Debbie McCarthy, Fisher’s campaign manager, said they requested a recount of the tallies due to a variety of concerns, but their request was denied. They plan to contact the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance for campaign violation and the Elections Division of the Secretary of State for election oversight.
“MassGOP and MassVictory are supposed to remain neutral,” she said. “They’re not supposed to be biased in a campaign. So that’s one of the objections. We believe they have been in collusion with the Baker campaign.”
The biggest concern of the Fisher campaign is the counting of blank votes in the final tally, in which McCarthy said she received conflicting answers during various times of the convention weekend. Rob Eno, the publisher of Red Mass Group, recorded the votes as they were announced to the convention body and said Fisher received 15.04 percent of the delegate vote, without counting blanks.
“This is unofficial by my count,” he said repeatedly to the circle of reporters and delegates that surrounded him.
McCarthy also said their campaign has proof from the town clerk that a registered Democrat was appointed to attend the convention and vote off the floor. The individual did not vote, but the campaign believes there may have been other independents and Democrats at the convention whose votes were counted.
The Daily Free Press sat down with Fisher after the convention adjourned, but prior to the release of the results, and he shared his concerns for the un-enrolled people who voted at the convention.
“That’s scandalous,” he said. “This is our state party in Massachusetts.”
Fisher said MassGOP made a variety of verbal rules that were changed throughout the day, including the inclusion of blank votes in the final tally and the policy on rounding percentages up, which would round Fisher’s 14.765 percent to 15. The campaign is looking to contest the changes in vote counting guidelines that were made throughout the weekend.
“There’s so many rules that are unwritten rules,” he said. “Last night [Friday night], we were talking about abstaining, people who don’t vote, and we were told blanks count. But then this morning we were told we will not count those. But it’s all verbal. Obviously, he [Charlie] has way more [votes] than I do, so whether he has 85 or 83 [percent], he’s got the nomination. We’re not contesting that.”
McCarthy confirmed that she had been in contact with Cunningham throughout the day of the convention, but the rules were changed after one of the convention’s recesses. She said the Fisher campaign has no physical evidence that un-enrolled candidates voted off the floor because neither campaign was allowed to see the book where all tallies were recorded.
“The Baker people had state committee people working the floor for them, so they had access to the ballots. We did not,” she said. “There was no written preferential treatment. It just the way everything was done. It was undertone through the convention.”
As of Sunday, Fisher will not be making any further comments to the press, as per legal guidance, McCarthy said.
Cunningham said both parties had the opportunity to state their concerns with the counting of ballots, and all MassGOP rules were followed.
“We understand that with campaigns that are hard fought and with a lot of personal, financial and time investments, it’s very frustrating to come as close as that campaign came,” he said. “However, we’re very pleased that the process was followed and was transparent to the campaigns.”
Tim Buckley, the communications director for Baker’s campaign, prior to the release of the official numbers Saturday, said their campaign could not confirm or deny any of the allegations, but Baker respects Fisher and all his campaign efforts.
“Charlie has great respect for anyone who decides to step into the ring,” he said. “We’ve said since day one, whether or not there’s a primary, it won’t change our game plan, which is presenting Charlie as the experienced leader who is committed to creating jobs, improving schools and making safer, stronger communities.”
Buckley said Sunday their campaign would not be making any more comments about the issue at this time.
Barbara McCoy, a state committee member from the Plymouth and Barnstable district, was called in to testify because of a challenge made regarding the residency status of two delegates. Regarding the alleged mistakes made in tallying the votes, she said everything was recorded properly and any mistakes made were corrected.
“They went over our tally sheets page-by-page,” she said. “The two attorneys agreed that it was all correct. I don’t believe there was any corruption. There was a whole system of checks and balances.”