Northampton doctor, dentist wife running state DeSantis campaign

Jay Fleitman and Mary Lou Stuart of Northampton are co-chairs of the Ron DeSantis presidential campaign in Massachusetts.

Jay Fleitman and Mary Lou Stuart of Northampton are co-chairs of the Ron DeSantis presidential campaign in Massachusetts. CONTRIBUTED/JAY FLEITMAN

By JAMES PENTLAND

Staff Writer

Published: 12-08-2023 5:00 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Continuing their high-profile involvement in state Republican politics, city physician Jay Fleitman and his wife, Mary Lou Stuart, are heading up the Ron DeSantis presidential campaign for Massachusetts.

The two have co-chaired the Florida governor’s campaign since the beginning of the year, Fleitman said, but it’s beginning to take up more of their attention now.

“We’ve had the opportunity of being in small events with DeSantis, hearing him speak for an hour, taking questions,” Fleitman said. “We’re beginning to realize, this guy’s the real thing.”

Besides being “principled, effective, (and) incredibly intelligent,” he said, DeSantis is a “nice guy — someone you want to see in the upper levels of politics.”

Fleitman, a former Gazette columnist who said he was voting for Donald Trump “without apology” in 2020, said he and Stuart believe DeSantis has a better shot of winning the 2024 general election than Trump does.

“The last thing we need is two candidates who fuel divisions,” he said, referring to Trump and President Joe Biden.

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The first few months of the campaign were spent recruiting supporters to help win delegates on primary day, he said. Now, they’re focusing on identifying delegates to the national convention.

Fleitman, who is vice chair of the state GOP, said he had been planning to run for the chairmanship in January before deciding that working to support a good presidential candidate was more important. State party chairs are obligated not to take part in any primary race, he said.

The state party has had a turbulent year, paying $15,000 to settle allegations of campaign finance violations and being sued by former chairman Jim Lyons in a dispute over back pay, as the party itself is hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. That lawsuit is still in progress.

No single Republican holds a statewide office since Charlie Baker and Karyn Polito finished their second terms as governor and lieutenant governor in January. The GOP is also a super-minority in the Legislature, where Republicans hold just 28 of the 200 seats between the House and Senate.

Given that Republicans are only 9% of the electorate in Massachusetts, Fleitman said he and Stuart work to build bridges.

“We’re both known to be members who can talk to anybody,” he said. “We have to recognize, 60% of voters are unenrolled. We need to find common ground.”

Stuart, a dentist and the dental director of a rural community health center, and Fleitman are also seeking reelection to their positions as Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester District representatives on the Republican State Committee.

Other candidates for the two seats are Sue O’Sullivan of Royalston and Christopher Ryan of Amherst, according to the secretary of the commonwealth’s office.

The district includes Amherst, Ashburnham, Athol, Bernardston, Deerfield, Erving, Gill, Greenfield, Hadley, Hatfield, Leverett, Leyden, Montague, New Salem, Northampton, Northfield, Orange, Pelham, Petersham, Royalston, Shutesbury, Sunderland, Warwick, Wendell and Winchenden.

The primary election is March 5.