The latest from the increasingly embarrassing debacle that was the Mass. GOP convention last weekend is that the party’s chairman of the rules committee, Steve Zykofsky, says that blank or “present” votes should not have been counted in determining whether Mark Fisher got the 15% of delegates he needed to make the ballot. And if you don’t include those votes, Fisher would qualify. But the party’s executive director, Rob Cunningham, disagrees with Zykofsky, arguing that the party’s head rules guy doesn’t understand the rules. And Fisher says he will go to court if the party keeps trying to shut him out.
Cunningham’s defense of how things went at the convention is nothing short of hilarious.
Asked where the additional blank votes came from, he declined to provide details, but noted that officials from both campaigns were in the tally room where the vote was verified.
“That came out of independent, impartial tally room staff making the official vote in a controlled, overseen, and transparent environment in the back of the building,” Cunningham said.
He declined to provide a district-by-district tally of the votes to the Globe.
“In the back of the building.” And he refuses to supply the actual tally to the press. Sounds about as transparent as a brick wall.
Kirsten Hughes, the GOP chair who presumably has ultimate responsibility for this thing, was confused while it was actually happening.
The party’s vote-counters came up with a total of 2,533 votes later that night, after the convention emptied of activists. By their math, which included 64 blanks, Fisher fell just short of qualifying with 14.765 percent, Hughes said.
When she gave reporters the official vote tally, Hughes also asserted that blanks were not being counted.
“You can’t count blanks toward a bottom line,” said Hughes. “That’s not how it goes.”
Later, Hughes said she had misspoken and that the blanks had in fact, been counted.
Anyway, the point is that now, everyone knows the story: if you count the blanks, Fisher doesn’t make it, but if you don’t, he does. Hughes is looking at a public dispute between her executive director and the chair of her rules committee, and if she doesn’t act quickly to restore order, Fisher is going to take her to court, guaranteeing that this will be prolonged for months.
What’s the right call? Easy. Hughes should overrule Cunningham, go with her rules chair, and declare that Fisher got his 15%. That avoids a lawsuit (no way Charlie Baker would sue to keep Fisher off the ballot), it makes her look in-charge and decisive, and it’s the pro-small-d-democratic outcome. It’s also much better for Baker to have a primary, whatever he or the party Pooh-Bahs may think. Fisher is the perfect foil for Baker to prove to independent voters that he’s not the captive of the Tea Party, social conservative, RMG types who are probably the main reason Republicans do so badly in this state year after year. Also, a primary keeps Baker in the news, instead of ceding the free publicity to the Dems as they slug out their five-way battle.
Baker had no primary in 2010, and we all know how that went for him. He and Hughes should hold a presser to jointly welcome Fisher to the primary ballot. They’d both come out smelling like roses.