State Representative Geoff Diehl, this year’s failed GOP candidate for the US Senate, has decided not to seek the chairman’s post of the Massachusetts Republican Party — but may end up on its payroll anyway.
His decision is a major boost for Governor Charlie Baker’s efforts to retain control of the party in the face of a conservative move to elect a pro-Trump candidate as its new leader.
“I’m not running for it, that’s all I can say,’’ said Diehl, a supporter of the president, in a brief interview.
Diehl, who will leave his legislative seat and its $75,000 salary at the end of the year, said he is “looking forward to helping the Mass. GOP in the future” but declined to comment whether that included a paid position at the party headquarters.
One Republican Party activist confirmed that there have been some discussions between Diehl and party leaders close to the Baker camp over his working for the GOP as he seeks a federal job in the Trump administration.
“They’re talking about it,’’ the person said. “They want Geoff involved with the state party in some meaningful way.”
Diehl, who served as cochairman of Trump’s Massachusetts campaign in 2016, remained a strong supporter of the president when the Whitman Republican ran unsuccessfully against US Senator Elizabeth Warren.
His takeover of the party and its $1 million bank account that Baker helped to fill would have created political problems for the governor, an outspoken critic of Trump, and his ability to freely use its resources as he enters his second term.
Baker operatives are backing veteran state committeeman and party treasurer Brent Andersen for the position. The new chairman will need a majority of support from the 80-member state committee to succeed outgoing chair Kirsten Hughes. The committee meets Jan. 17 to choose a new chair by secret ballot.
Diehl’s decision to get out of the race has greatly boosted Andersen’s chances to win the top party post that pays about $95,000 a year.
Andersen has told several news outlets that he now has as many as 45 votes, although it is unclear what is the actual level of support for him. He did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment and information about his supporters on the committee.
But already, Diehl’s withdrawal has prompted at least one other candidate to get into the race.
State Representative James Lyons of Andover, who was defeated earlier this year, said he is all but decided to get into the race.
Lyons has strong credentials among conservatives and within the Trump camp, but he also has worked with Baker and his moderate wing of the party. Lyons had backed off jumping into the contest for the party chairmanship when Diehl appeared to be picking up steam in recent weeks.Frank Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.