BOSTON (AP) — Republicans in Massachusetts are weighing which candidate has the best chance of keeping the governor’s office in the hands of the GOP as they vote in Tuesday’s primary: A former state lawmaker endorsed by Donald Trump or a political newcomer who presented himself as the more moderate choice.
Geoff Diehl and Chris Doughty are vying for the chance to replace incumbent Republican Governor Charlie Baker, who has opted out of seeking a third term.
Democrats have a simpler decision. Attorney General Maura Healey – she would become the first woman and first openly gay candidate elected governor if she wins – faces no challenger after the only other Democrat on the ballot dropped out of the race.
Republican voters in the state will be only the last to decide whether the party will embrace Trumpism more or is ready to return to the center. In recent primaries in other blue states like Maryland and Connecticut, GOP voters nominated Trump loyalists, hurting the party’s chances of winning against a Democrat in the November general election.
Diehl, the favorite among Republican Party delegates from the state of Massachusetts, has ties to Trump that extend to 2016, when he served as co-chair of Trump’s presidential campaign in the state. Trump has lost Massachusetts by nearly 30 percentage points in his two presidential campaigns. Diehl also opposed COVID-19 protocols and welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
Doughty, a businessman, said he supports some of Trump’s initiatives but wants to focus on the challenges facing Massachusetts, which he says is increasingly unaffordable.
Diehl has come to terms with Trump’s false claims that he lost the 2020 election. Diehl said last year he didn’t believe it was a “stolen election,” but did later said the election was rigged, despite dozens of courts, local officials and Trump’s own attorney general saying the vote was legitimate. Doughty, meanwhile, said he believes President Joe Biden was legitimately elected.
The challenge for both is that Trump’s support may play well among the party’s conservative wing, but could be a political albatross in a state where registered Republicans make up less than 10% of the electorate, compared to around 31% for Democrats and about 57% for Independents.
Diehl faced a similar struggle when he challenged Democratic U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren in 2018. He won a three-way Republican primary to secure just over a third of the vote in the general election.
Doughty said he would work to reduce taxes and said that although he considers himself ‘pro-life’, he accepts the state Supreme Court’s decision recognizing the right to abortion in Massachusetts .
Doughty said he raised nearly $2.3 million for his campaign, most of it coming from his own pocket, compared to Diehl, who raised around $582,000. Healey has the largest campaign bank account — around $3.4 million.
Massachusetts has a history of electing fiscally conservative and socially moderate Republican governors, including former governors. William Weld and Mitt Romney – to control overwhelming Democratic legislative majorities. Baker, another Republican in this mould, remained popular in the state.
The election also includes several contested Democratic primaries across the state, including for Attorney General and Commonwealth Secretary.
Two Democrats are vying for the top law enforcement office: former Boston City Councilwoman Andrea Campbell and workers’ rights attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan. A week before the election, a third candidate, former assistant attorney general Quentin Palfrey, announced he was suspending his campaign and endorsed Campbell; it will remain on the ballot.
Campbell would be the first black woman to hold the office in Massachusetts if elected.
The winner will face Republican Jay McMahon, an attorney who previously ran against Healey and lost.
Outgoing Democratic Commonwealth Secretary William Galvin is running for an eighth term. He takes up a challenge from fellow Democrat Tanisha Sullivan, president of the Boston branch of the NAACP. Sullivan would be the first black person to hold that position in the state.
The winner will face Republican Rayla Campbell in November. Campbell is also black.
There are also contested races in the Democratic primary for auditor and for the Democratic and Republican races for lieutenant governor.
None of the nine incumbent members of the United States Democratic House face major opponents. There are two disputed Republican primaries in the 8th and 9th congressional districts.
A new state law makes “no excuse” mail-in ballots and early ballots permanent in Massachusetts elections. Many of the voting options included in the new law were implemented during the height of the coronavirus pandemic and proved popular.
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