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To state GOP, internal rivalry poses greater threat than Democrats

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Massachusetts Republican activists - conservatives and moderates alike - are solidly behind the reelection efforts of President Ronald Reagan. The Bay State GOP, however, is not the big happy family such solidarity may suggest.

At a time when the party's survival as more than a group of political handwringers depends on members pulling together, old rivalries in leadership have surfaced anew.

At issue is the GOP state chairmanship for the next four years. Andrew Natsios, who has held the post since April 1980, is eyeing a new term. Though Mr. Natsios appears to have broad-based support among prominent Republicans statewide, his bid to retain the party gavel is by no means assured.

John R. Lakian of Westwood, the investment counselor who made a bid for the party's nomination for governor two years ago, has his immediate sights set on the GOP chairmanship. He is being aided by Republican National Committeeman Gordon Nelson, from whom Natsios wrested the GOP state committee reins four years ago.

Although the showdown vote won't come until late April, the March 13 state presidential primary may foreshadow the outcome. Next Tuesday, all 80 seats on the Republican State Committee will be filled by GOP voters across Massachusetts , and the 40 men and 40 women chosen will pick their chairman within the next six weeks.

That is why both Natsios and Lakian are busily moving within Massachusetts Republican circles to build grass-roots support among state committee candidates.

In several of the 40 Massachusetts senatorial districts, from which GOP state committee members are elected, candidates committed to Lakian and those pledged to Natsios are pitted against one another. Ballot contests are especially keen in several districts where those who have served for the past four years are not running for a new term.

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