Conservatives are a lonely tribe on Beacon Hill. Republicans will hold a measly 20 percent of the 200 seats in the Massachusetts House and Senate next year. And the Democrats are overwhelmingly liberal. Still, those on the right are confident they can cope.
The 2018 election set the stage for the exit of two stalwart, often lonely conservative voices who frequently attack the Democratic kingpins who control the agenda.
Whitman Republican Rep. Geoff Diehl gave up his seat for his unsuccessful run against U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, and North Andover Republican Rep. James Lyons was ousted by Tram Nguyen.
Lyons was detested by progressives and the Democratic Party, who spent $112,000 — 14 times the cost of the average House race — to defeat him. Lyons' and Diehl's M.O. was to force House floor debate on bills Democrats would have rather passed without public debate.
Here's Lyons on the transgender accommodations bill from 2016: "This legislation, folks, really has absolutely nothing to do with discrimination. It has everything to do with changing our society and social engineering by those on the left.”
Billerica Rep. Marc Lombardo was an ally of Lyons and says the small conservative wing of the GOP needs to continue to spur conversations and force roll call votes.
"I think that role doesn't change. I think it's important as a Republican caucus and certainly as some of us identify a little bit more conservative than others, to make sure that we're having those conversations on fiscal issues and and others."
It's those fiscal issues that are going to be a big deal on Beacon Hill in the session that starts in January. After avoiding major tax hikes for the last few years, the costs of health care, education and transportation are climbing… And Democrats are increasingly talking about tax hikes to balance the budget.
Paul Craney of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, a conservative watchdog group loathed by some Democrats, says the conservative voice won't be any quieter without Diehl and Lyons:
"The answer is absolutely not. That's a normal part of state democracy. You have plenty of people who are in the legislature who have been watching Geoff, have been watching Jim lead and now this, this is their opportunity to step up."
Those opportunities are going to come in the form of debates over cuts to MassHealth and budget growth, where the Republican Party's leader, Gov. Charlie Baker, aligns most closely with more conservative lawmakers.
There's one thing conservatives and progressives might also team up on: holding the democratic super-majority accountable for transparency in votes and debate.
Cambridge Rep. Mike Connolly is perhaps the most liberal member of the House. And though he really doesn't agree with conservatives about anything when it comes to policy, he thinks it's absolutely possible that the far left and far right in the House could find common cause when it comes to empowering individual House members.
"You know, I think sometimes leaving apart the substance or you know a different political philosophy. I think that there's an interest in a fair process, every Rep. of having you know a voice in the process. And so I think that there's potential to consider how we make the body democratic.”
As for Diehl, he may continue to be a thorn in Democrats' and Baker's sides. He told the Boston Globe recently he's considering a run for chairman of the state Republican Party.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated Rep. Jim Lyon's party affiliation. He is a Republican.