Republicans hoping to hold on to the governor’s office this November in the blue state of Massachusetts are choosing between a former state lawmaker backed by former President Trump and a more centrist businessman in Tuesday’s GOP gubernatorial primary.
In the battle to succeed highly popular two-term Republican Gov. Charlie Baker – who opted against running for re-election – Trump is supporting former state Rep. Geoff Diehl, who is a firm backer of the former president’s unproven claims the 2020 election was “rigged” and “stolen.”
“Geoff is a proven fighter who successfully pushes back on the ultraliberal extremists,” Trump said as he praised Diehl on a primary eve tele-rally.
“He’ll rule your state with an iron fist, and he’ll do what has to be done,” the former president added.
Diehl, who lost to Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren by nearly 25 points in the state’s 2018 Senate election, is facing off against Chris Doughty, a Harvard Business School graduate and first-time candidate who is largely self-funding his own campaign.
“I’m a job creator, and that’s a big part of what a governor does…to help the economy grow and to make sure everybody has not just jobs, but good jobs,” Doughty told reporters on Tuesday as he voted.
Doughty is being backed by more moderate and traditional Republicans, including GOP Gov. Chris Sununu of neighboring New Hampshire, who argues Doughty has the better chance of winning in November. Popular conservative radio talk show host Howie Carr, who has been a longtime Trump backer, made the same point regarding electability in recently endorsing Doughty.
Baker, who has long been critical of Trump, remained neutral in the GOP gubernatorial primary.
Earlier this year, Diehl won the Republican endorsement as he captured nearly three-quarters of delegates at the state party convention. However, he would likely face a major challenge in the general election, in a state where Trump captured less than a third of the vote in the 2020 presidential contest.
The GOP nomination winner will face off against two-term Attorney General Maura Healey, who is running uncontested in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. If she wins in November, Healey would become the first woman elected governor in Massachusetts and the state’s first openly gay chief executive.
Trump, who remains the most popular and influential politician in the GOP as he continues to play a kingmaker’s role in party primaries and repeatedly teases a 2024 presidential run, suffered some high-profile gubernatorial losses early in this year’s primary season as candidates he backed were defeated in Idaho, Nebraska and Georgia, where conservative GOP Gov. Brian Kemp demolished the Trump-backed former Sen. David Perdue.
However, Trump has been on a roll this summer, with the gubernatorial candidates he has endorsed and supported winning heavily contested GOP primaries in Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Arizona and Wisconsin.