By Christopher Scott
LOWELL -- If Rick Green is as successful selling Republican talking points as he is auto parts, then perhaps he is indeed what the Massachusetts Republican Party needs.
Green, a 42-year-old Pepperell businessman who has built a worldwide online auto-parts distribution business, is vying to become the next chairman of the statewide GOP.
Green, who runs Pepperell-based 1A Auto, wants to be the replacement for Robert Maginn, who has announced he will not be a candidate for re-election during the Jan. 31 election.
In declaring his candidacy, Green is taking the challenge to the state's Republican top dog, Scott Brown.
As the state awaits word from Brown on whether he will challenge U.S. Rep. Edward Markey for Sen. John F. Kerry's seat in the upper chamber, assuming Kerry is confirmed as secretary of state, Brown is backing Kirsten Hughes for the statewide GOP post. Hughes was Brown's deputy finance director during his unsuccessful Senate run last fall against Democrat Elizabeth Warren.
Brown's backing of Hughes has caused some anxiety in Republican circles, as his perceived meddling in the process has driven some Republicans to Green, rather than galvanizing support behind one candidate.
Already weak, a potentially bitter contest is something the state's GOP can ill-afford.
"The reason I'm backing Rick Green is because he supports the bottom-up philosophy of rebuilding the party in Massachusetts: It all starts at the local, grassroots level," said state Rep. Marc Lombardo of Billerica. "I know Kirsten very well and she is very capable. But she favors the top-down approach, and obviously that hasn't worked well."
For example, there are only 29 Republicans in the 160-member House and even fewer, just four, in the 40-member Senate.
Besides Lombardo, Green also has support from Rep. Daniel Winslow, one of the state's leading Republicans from Norfolk.
The party chair leads recruiting, fundraising and party-building efforts. He or she is elected by members of the state committee, which is comprised of 80 activists from around the state. Late last week, it was reported Green had support from 27 committee members, while Hughes reportedly had support from 21, but was gaining.
Green said he hopes to register to vote 250,000 Republicans within two years of being elected and tripling the office's budget, which currently stands at about $850,000.
That's doable, he said, if the state GOP "listens" rather than "dictates."
"At the end of the day the GOP needs to go back to school and listen, just listen," said Green, who is married and has two young children. "Once we listen, we should take our principles of a free market and individual liberty and apply them to what we're being told."
Green declined to discuss specifics of how he would accomplish those goals, saying doing so "would take hours." He is sharing those details, however, with state committee members.
Green was elected to the Republican State Committee in 2012, representing the 1st Middlesex (Senate) District communities of Dunstable, Groton, Lowell, Pepperell, Tyngsboro and Westford.
Green graduated from Cornell University in 1992 and earned his MBA from the University of Virginia in 2000. He was born at Fort Dix, New Jersey and lived in Massachusetts, California, Delaware and Oklahoma while his father served in the U.S. Air Force. His family returned to Massachusetts in 1984 and Green graduated from North Middlesex Regional High School in 1988, where he was a star pitcher on the baseball team.
More than a decade old, A1 Auto has more than $50 million in annual revenue, employs nearly 100 people and is eBay's largest seller of auto parts, Green said.
"I know how difficult it is to build something from scratch and how to succeed when you start from nothing," Green said in a statement on his website. "I have succeeded by building a great team and providing them the resources they need to be successful. When we work together, we can accomplish amazing things. I am determined to see our state improve and am willing to commit the time and energy necessary to lead our party to a more competitive position."
Green's younger brother, Mike, is a member of the Pepperell Board of Selectmen, now serving in his second year. The younger Green also works with his older brother at A1.
"I've seen my brother build a worldwide computer network to distribute auto parts," Mike Green said. "I know he can use the same skills to rebuild the GOP in Massachusetts."
Follow lead Column Blog author Christopher Scott on Twitter @cscottlowellsun.