Former Veterans’ Services Secretary Urena Takes Job with Republican Party

Rep. Linda Dean Campbell, right, joined Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Francisco Urena at a previous Statehouse ceremony. (Courtesy photograph.)

Former Veterans’ Services Secretary Francisco Urena, who has received local support after being ousted last year in the aftermath of 76 COVID-19 deaths at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, is taking a role at MassGOP where he will “help lead” the party’s Veterans Coalition.

The party said Sunday night Urena’s new role represents one of his first political moves since he was forced to resign in the wake of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home tragedy. And it comes as the state Republican party is still managing the fallout from a state committee member’s anti-gay remarks and Chairman Jim Lyons’ handling of the situation.

“Massachusetts veterans know firsthand what it’s like to make important sacrifices, and they should know they have an important voice in public affairs,” Urena said in a statement.

Sen Diana DiZoglio and Veterans Assisting Veterans, among others, have questioned Gov. Charlie Baker’s demand that Urena resign after reports and testimony show Urena had no direct role. In his own written testimony before a special investigative committee co-chaired by Rep. Linda Dean Campbell of Methuen, Urena said he had significant concerns about Holyoke Superintendent Bennett Walsh’s job performance, but was “powerless” to address the issue.

The MassGOP created the Veterans Coalition in August 2020, saying it will provide Massachusetts veterans with a Republican-based platform. John MacDonald, a veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm, was tasked with leading the group. The former secretary will join MacDonald and MassGOP Veterans Coalition co-chairman Adam Hogue. Lyons called Urena “a decorated Massachusetts veteran and quite frankly a war hero, but he’s the last guy who will tell you that.”

Chris Van Buskirk of State House News Service contributed to this story.

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