Despite a popular outgoing GOP governor, Republicans in Massachusetts face an uphill battle to replace him with another conservative, but two candidates believe they’re up to the task.

Two Republican Candidates Hope To Prevent ‘San Francisco On Steroids’ In Massachusetts

Despite a popular outgoing GOP governor, Republicans in Massachusetts face an uphill battle to replace him with another conservative, but two candidates believe they’re up to the task.
Gov. Charlie Baker

Despite a popular outgoing GOP governor, Republicans in Massachusetts face an uphill battle to replace him with another conservative, but two candidates believe they’re up to the task.

Gov. Charlie Baker’s 69% approval rating puts him in a three-way tie for most popular governor in the country, according to Morning Consult, but he announced in December that he would not be running for a third term to instead focus on stewarding the Massachusetts economy out of the pandemic, NPR reported at the time.

Though both potential Republican replacements — former state representative and U.S. Senate candidate Geoff Diehl and political newcomer and businessman Chris Doughty — are trailing Democratic nominee and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey by about 30 points in a recent Suffolk poll, they both told the Daily Caller News Foundation they’re not afraid of the challenge and that it’s critically important that a Republican end up in command in the state house come November.

“Massachusetts’ state legislature is among the most liberal in the nation, as is its judiciary, and Maura Healey would be one of the most liberal governors in the country,” Doughty told the DCNF.  “Without a conservative check in the governor’s office, this would be San Francisco on steroids.”

“She’s a big-government ideologue that wants to take away the freedoms that our state was built on,” Diehl told the DCNF.

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Healey sued the Trump administration nearly 100 times as attorney general and has been accused of focusing on national culture wars rather than acting as a public servant for Massachusetts residents, according to WGBH, Boston’s local NPR channel.

Every time Healey engaged in these “politically motivated lawsuits,” Republican attorney Dan Shores said, meant “one more drug dealer who goes free, or one more public official who commits an act of corruption or one more senior who’s defrauded,” WBUR, another Boston-area NPR affiliate, reported.

U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling and the left-leaning Boston Globe editorial board have also criticized Healey for insufficiently prosecuting government corruption in the overwhelmingly Democratic state government, having never charged an elected official in the state, WGBH reported.

The Healey campaign did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

While both Doughty and Diehl are in agreement that a Healey governorship would spell disaster for Massachusetts, they disagree on the man to do it.

The Donald Trump-aligned Diehl seems to be the frontrunner at the moment, with a poll conducted in late June showing him up 52% to Doughty’s 16% among Republicans, though the figures are six weeks old and Doughty says his campaign has kicked things up a gear since then.

Diehl has far more political experience than Doughty; he won office as a state representative in 2010, and while unsuccessful, challenged Elizabeth Warren in 2018 for the U.S. Senate. He says the experience helped him “build a really strong team across the state and, even though I didn’t beat Warren, I actually got more votes than the Democratic nominee for governor that cycle.”

Diehl grew up in Pennsylvania before moving to his wife’s hometown of Whitman, Massachusetts, where they own a small performing arts business. It’s these credentials in both private business and government that Diehl backers believe make him the best choice for governor.

“Geoff uniquely in this race wields both private and public sector experience that allows him to understand how various pieces of the puzzle fit together,” Diehl’s campaign manager, Amanda Orlando, told the DCNF.

Diehl’s status as a small business owner also gave him a unique vantage point on how COVID-19 restrictions were impacting business owners, and ultimately spurred him to announce his candidacy last summer even before Baker made it clear that he would not be seeking reelection.

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“The pandemic exposed his administration for following too much of the Democratic playbook; we had to wait for arbitrary re-openings, kids weren’t going back to school,” Diehl told the DCNF, adding that “on day one we’d hire back any government workers that lost their jobs due to vaccine mandates, and on day two we’d fire anyone that thought that was a good idea.”

Challenging Baker — a Republican nemesis of Trump — helped Diehl earn the former president’s endorsement, and the Diehl campaign is composed of former Trump ringers, most notably including Corey Lewandowski, who managed parts of Trump’s 2016 campaign.

This week the Diehl campaign is flying in another staunch Trump ally, Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, for a fundraising event, Diehl told the DCNF.

But Doughty thinks these Trump connections make Diehl unelectable in New England. “He’s running an Alabama campaign in Massachusetts” Doughty told the DCNF. While signs point to Trump being popular in the Massachusetts GOP, Republicans make up a small percentage of registered voters in the state and the former president lost Massachusetts in 2020 by a margin of 2 to 1, according to WBUR.

The Wrentham-based businessman and political newcomer believes that where Diehl plays into hot-button culture wars, his pragmatism and business acumen make him the right fit for Massachusetts.

“I will run the state like I run my business. I will be very careful with money — we overtax and overspend in Massachusetts and it makes us noncompetitive,” he told the DCNF, also asserting repeatedly that his chops as a “fiscal conservative” outweigh Diehls’.

“Diehl voted for more spending in the state legislature than even our Democratic governor [Deval Patrick] supported when we had him,” Doughty told the DCNF.

Doughty also promises to compromise with Democrats, holding a “uniting view of the world,” according to WBUR, which has drawn comparisons to other moderate Republicans who have found success in Massachusetts in the past like Baker and Mitt Romney.

“I’m not here to say bad things about other people or other parties,” Doughty told WBUR.

But without Baker’s name recognition, many pundits question Doughty’s ability to succeed in a Massachusetts GOP primary when most of the state’s Republican voters are aligned with the pro-Trump wing of the party, according to WBUR.

“It might be easier to pass a camel through the eye of a needle than getting a moderate through a Republican primary” in Massachusetts today, Eric Fehrnstrom, a long-time Republican consultant, told WBUR.

While each facing their own challenges – Doughty immediately in the primary and Diehl in the general election — both men see national political trends and a possible “red wave” playing to their favor. President Joe Biden’s favorability has steadily decreased in Massachusetts to about 41%, while 48% disapprove according to Suffolk’s poll, which surveyed 600 Massachusetts residents between July 20 and 23 and had a margin of error of 4.5%.

Diehl noted the “Youngkin situation, where even in blue states or purple states you’re starting to see that middle ground — including 57% of voters that are unregistered in Massachusetts — looking at the country and saying, ‘You know what? The Democrats haven’t done it for us.’”

For his part, Doughty told the DCNF that “Geoff and I are tied pretty far behind Maura but what’s happened in the past in Massachusetts is that Republicans catch up three or four weeks before the general election — that’s when we start getting the traction and attention of the voters.”

Whether a Republican can pose a real challenge to Healey in November remains to be seen, but the next step is the party primary on Sept. 6.

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The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Free Press.

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