Sandwich Rep. Randy Hunt wasn’t surprised that his party on Tuesday lost a state Senate seat in Plymouth and Barnstable counties that had been in Republican control since 2015. In fact, he predicted it.
But Hunt, who is retiring after this term, said he still believes his House seat on the Upper Cape can be won by a Republican if the party nominates the right type of candidate.
Conservative Republican lawyer Jay McMahon, who closely aligned himself with the politics of President Donald Trump, lost a special election to Falmouth Selectwoman Susan Moran, one of two big Democratic pickups in the Senate on Tuesday. The victory, along with another win in western Massachusetts, increased the Democratic majority to 90 percent of the 40-member Senate.
Hunt noted that McMahon, who won his hometown of Bourne by less than 100 votes, was part of group of pro-Trump, gun rights activists who organized frequent standouts at the Bourne rotary demanding that Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who enjoys a high level of popularity, reopen the economy immediately.
Hunt said he believes that hurt, rather than helped, McMahon despite the visibility it gave the candidate.
“I think people are a little more circumspect about that,” Hunt said of reopening the economy during the pandemic. “And I think it does project a bit of a problem for that type of thinking in the November elections as well. I don’t know how you could not think that the mood this year in Massachusetts will be turning away from Trump supporters.”
By Beacon Hill’s standards, Hunt is considered a conservative in the House. But he sees a difference between his political views and those of candidates like McMahon.
“I am not a Trump-loving, Make-America-Great-Again hat wearing hat guy. I have a license to carry and I like to hunt and trap and have conservative ideas. But I’m not extreme and people know that,” he said.
“I do believe there will be negative down ballot effects for conservative Republicans in the fall,” Hunt said.
The Republican Party, however, doesn’t seem like it’s ready to turn away from Trump, despite his unpopularity in Massachusetts. In fact, the party’s first major event since Tuesday’s election is a fundraiser Thursday night with Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law and an adviser to his reelection campaign.
The 6:45 p.m. virtual event, which will also feature Corey Lewandowski, was organized with the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and other state parties in New England.
“We want to thank our two state senate candidates, Jay McMahon and John Cain, for stepping up to take on the radical Democrats,” MassGOP Chairman Jim Lyons said on Tuesday night after the races were called. “We lost both races. We are disappointed. The radical Democrats are committed to fundamentally change our country. We are committed to Keep America Great.”
Rather than align itself with its well-liked governor, the MassGOP seems to be moving away from him. Lyons recently wrote an op-ed in The Boston Herald critical of the governor’s cautious approach to allowing businesses to reopen, and Baker did nothing to support McMahon’s candidacy, though he did record a robocall for Cain in his unsuccessful Senate run against state Rep. John Velis.
Hunt, however, doesn’t think all is lost. If the fall election features a rematch between Moran and McMahon as it might, Hunt predicts the Republicans will lose again. But he does think the GOP can hold on to his House seat, which he has held since winning his first race in 2010.
Hunt is backing retired Yarmouth Deputy Police Chief Steven Xiarhos in a Republican primary against former Sandwich Selectman Tom Keyes. The winner will likely face Democrat Jim Dever, a lawyer who has been a member of the Sandwich School Committee for the past six years and used to worked for U.S. Sen. Ed Markey.
Hunt said Xiarhos has built a solid reputation on the Cape through his work in the police department, and his charitable organization raising money for military families in the name of his son Nicholas, who was killed while on active duty in Afghanistan in 2009.
Hunt said Xiarhos has two framed photos in his living of him in the Oval Office — one with Trump and one with President Barack Obama. Both visits were related to his work with law enforcement and his charity.
“That’s the kind of Republican I think would do well in this race,” Hunt said.