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Keller @ Large: Tea Party Challenger Provides Suspense For GOP Convention

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420x316-grad-keller2 Jon Keller
Veteran Boston political commentator Jon Keller is heard every weekday...
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BOSTON (CBS) – Sixth District candidate Richard Tisei, who is seen as the party’s best hope to win a congressional seat this fall, says he won’t be attending the convention in protest of socially conservative language in the party platform.

But intra-party disputes over abortion and gay marriage are the least of the GOP’s worries on the eve of their gathering at BU’s Agganis Arena.

It’ll be deja vu all over again for local Republicans on Saturday when they nominate Charlie Baker for a second shot at the governor’s office. That’s not in doubt.

The suspense will be over whether or not Tea Party Republican Mark Fisher of Shrewsbury can get the 15 percent support he needs to force a primary run-off with Baker in September.

“I think they’re willing to give me that 15 percent because they’re looking for a conservative candidate,” Fisher said.

“Charlie’s got a great head of hair and I don’t,” Fisher joked. “We’re different from the top down. Give me a primary and all the differences come out.”

Party chair Kirsten Hughes can’t take sides in that fight publicly but claims candidates like Baker with public and private management experience will be just what anxious, frustrated voters want in an era of Beacon Hill malpractice.

“I feel very confident that we are going to speak with one voice after Saturday’s convention,” Hughes said.

Hughes would rather make this election about competence rather than ideology.

“Absolutely, because at the end of the day people need competence, and they need to know that when they get up in the morning they can put food on the table,” she said.

But convention dissension isn’t what really worries the state GOP. They’re more concerned about millionaire businessman Jeff McCormick, who is running as an independent with Baker as a key target.

“I think the Republican Party is largely out of touch,” McCormick said. “You’ve got to know how to run companies, different kinds of companies, grow jobs … Charlie doesn’t have that breadth of experience, because at the end of the day he’s a product of some bureaucracies.”

McCormick claims to be running against both major parties, but his pro-growth, socially moderate platform seems more likely to draw support from Republicans and independents turned off by the GOP brand, votes Baker can ill afford to lose come November.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

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