Auburn’s Anderson Sets Sights on State GOP Leadership
By Matt Murphy
State House News Service
BOSTON -- Auburn Republican Brent Andersen could be on the precipice of becoming the next chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, telling party leaders Tuesday that he has the support of a majority of House Republicans and later indicating he may have sewn up enough votes on the State Committee to become chair.
Andersen, who runs Pilgrim Bay Insurance Agency in Worcester, sent an email to members of the State Committee Tuesday morning detailing his support from 20 members of the House Republican caucus, including Republican National Committeewoman Keiko Orrall.
In backing Andersen, those lawmakers sided with a longtime party official over one, and possibly two, of their own colleagues.
Andersen later told the News Service that his own internal count of the 80-person state committee that will elect a new chair in January shows him with the support of “a majority of the committee, 45 members.”
Andersen is looking to move up the party ranks after MassGOP Chairwoman Kirsten Hughes announced late last month that she would not seek another term as chair after six years leading the party. Andersen has been the party treasurer since 2003, and a member of the state committee since 2000.
Hughes, appearing Sunday on WCVB’s “On the Record,” said she was not supporting any candidate as her successor, but has known Andersen a long time.
“He’s been a great supporter of the party and my effort to build our data and infrastructure, our field program. He knows 2020 is going to be a difficult year. We’re going to have to raise a lot of money and make sure our resources are spent smartly to keep incumbents safe and so I think he’ll be the best steward of that train of thought,” Hughes said.
In the wake of Hughes’s decision to step aside, Rep. Peter Durant, of Spencer, announced that he would seek the post, along with Andersen.
Rep. Geoff Diehl, who is leaving the House in January after unsuccessfully challenging U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, also said he was considering running for party chair, but has not publicly stated his intentions despite reports that he was getting into the race.
Andersen’s support from House members included House Minority Leader Brad Jones and Assistant Leader Brad Hill, according to the email. Jones and Hill are the top two Republicans in the House where the caucus currently numbers 34, but will drop to 32 in the new year.
“Republican state legislators have the most on the line when they face the challenges of a Presidential Election Cycle here in Massachusetts. I am honored these twenty State Representatives have decided to put their confidence and trust in me for Party Chair. I will work tirelessly to support the entire Republican caucus,” Andersen wrote.
Jones had previously told the News Service that he would likely back Andersen over Durant or Diehl. He said he thought it might be difficult for Durant, in particular, to wear two hats - as party chair and as a lawmaker seeking compromise in a Democrat-controlled House.
“I’ve known Brent the longest time and I think he makes the most sense. I think he has the ability to represent the different factions of the party, if you will,” Jones said.
The other lawmakers backing Andersen include House GOP Whip Elizabeth Poirier, Assistant Whip Susan Gifford, Assistant Whip Paul Frost, and Reps. Sheila Harrington, Jay Barrows, William Crocker, Angelo D’Emilia, Shawn Dooley, Kim Ferguson, Steven Howitt, Randy Hunt, James Kelcourse, Hannah Kane, David Muradian, Matthew Muratore, Tim Whelan and Donald Wong.
Only Harrington is an elected member of the State Committee, though Crocker’s wife Judy Crocker and Orrall’s husband and representative-elect Norman Orrall are also on the committee and will have a vote in the January election for chair.