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Walpole will be GOP battlefield

January 4, 2016

Two Walpole residents are vying for pivotal seats on the Massachusetts Republican State Committee, but they face stiff challenges in two of the most competitive State Committee races that Walpole, and the state party, has seen in a long time.

The tight races represent a larger fight that is going on in the Mass. Republican Party right now over control of the party’s message, being waged between ardent conservative activists and so-called “Establishment” candidates tied to popular Governor Charlie Baker. The Boston Globe reported in November that Baker actively recruited candidates for GOP State Committee to solidify control away from right-wing conservatives who have gained ground in the State Committee in recent years and are attempting to pursue more socially and fiscally conservative policies within the party.

Walpole’s own Dominick Ianno, a well-known political activist from East Walpole, formerly of North Walpole, who works in the Baker administration, is one of the Baker-backed candidates running for State Committeeman this year in the Bristol and Norfolk district. But he is running against Attleboro’s Jeff Bailey, a socially conservative two-time former state legislative candidate. They are both vying to replace Horace Mello, generally perceived as a non-Establishment conservative, who is stepping down.

Meanwhile, Foxboro-based incumbent GOP State Committeewoman Angela Davis, who also works for the Baker administration, is facing a heavy challenge from Walpole’s Maura Clow, an ardent social and fiscal conservative who has been campaigning heavily in Walpole’s local conservative circles.

Clow, also the wife of Precinct 5 RTM Harry Clow, is well known in Walpole and many analysts expect she could win the town’s vote. It’s less clear how well she will do in other parts of the district, which comprises the same towns as the Bristol and Norfolk State Senate district. In an indication of the tight competition, Davis has been campaigning aggressively in recent months, including touting Baker’s endorsement on her Facebook page. Meanwhile, Clow has received backing from the Renew MA Coalition, led by conservative activists across the state. Clow apparently collected 80 signatures on her nomination papers, a decent haul for a first-time candidate, compared to 116 signatures for the incumbent Davis. A minimum of 50 signatures are required.

RedMassGroup, a conservative blog, reported last month that this year’s GOP State Committee races are “more contested than ever,” with 54 contested state Committeeman and Committeewoman races out of 80 total. (You can also download a list of all GOP State Committee candidates from the RMG website.) Each of the 40 State Senate districts in the state has a Committeeman and a Committeewoman, totaling 80.

The vote for GOP State Committee members takes place on the GOP primary ballot on March 1. The competitive Republican presidential primary race, compared to the Democratic race, could mean that many moderate un-enrolled voters will vote in the GOP primary, giving Ianno and Davis a boost.

The Walpole Republican Town Committee has announced they plan to host a candidate forum between all four State Committee candidates running to represent Walpole on January 27, 2016 at 7 p.m. at the Walpole Public Library.

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