BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Republicans are weighing which candidate has the best chance of keeping the governor’s office in GOP hands as they vote in Tuesday’s primary: a former state lawmaker backed by Donald Trump or a new politician who is considered the most moderate option.
Geoff Diehl and Chris Doughty are vying to replace incumbent Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who opted not to seek a third term.
Democrats have a simpler decision. Attorney General Maura Healey — who would become the first woman and first openly gay gubernatorial candidate to be elected governor if she wins — faces no challengers after the only other Democrat on the ballot dropped out.
Republican voters in the state will just become the latest to decide whether the party further embraces Trumpism or is ready to return to the center. In recent primaries in other blue states like Maryland and Connecticut, GOP voters have nominated Trump loyalists, hurting the party’s chances of winning against a Democrat in November’s general election.
Deal, a favorite among state GOP delegates in Massachusetts, has ties to Trump that stretch back to 2016, when he served as co-chairman of Trump’s presidential campaign in the state. Trump lost Massachusetts by nearly 30 percentage points in his two presidential campaigns. Diehl has also opposed the COVID-19 protocols and welcomed the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.
Doughty, a businessman, said he has supported some of Trump’s initiatives but wants to focus on the challenges facing Massachusetts, which he said are becoming increasingly out of reach.
Diehl embraced Trump’s false claims that he lost the 2020 election. Diehl said last year that he did not believe it was a “stolen election,” but later said the election was rigged, despite dozens of courts, local officials and the general Trump’s own attorney said the vote was legal. Doughty, meanwhile, said he believes President Joe Biden was legitimately elected.
The challenge for both is that Trump’s support may play well in the party’s conservative wing, but could be a political albatross in a state where registered Republicans make up less than 10 percent of the electorate compared to about 31 % for Democrats and about 57% for independents.
Diehl faced a similar struggle when he challenged Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren in 2018. He won three Republican primaries only to win just over a third of the vote in the general election.
Doughty has said he will work to lower taxes and has said that while he considers himself “pro-life,” he accepts the state Supreme Court’s decision recognizing the right to abortion in Massachusetts.
Doughty reported raising nearly $2.3 million for his campaign, most of which came out of his own pocket, compared to Diehl, who has raised about $582,000. Healey has the largest campaign bank account — about $3.4 million.
Massachusetts has a history of electing fiscally conservative, socially moderate Republican governors — including former governors. William Weld and Mitt Romney — to control overwhelming Democratic legislative majorities. Baker, another Republican in that mold, remained popular in the state.
The election also includes several contested statewide primaries, including for attorney general and secretary of the commonwealth.
Two Democrats are vying for the top law enforcement office: former Boston 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 endorsing Campbell. will remain on the ballot.
Campbell would be the first black woman to hold office in Massachusetts if elected.
The winner will face Republican Jay McMahon, a trial attorney who previously ran against Healey and lost.
Incumbent Democratic Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin is seeking an eighth term. He faces a challenge from fellow Democrat Tanisha Sullivan, president of the Boston NAACP chapter. Sullivan would be the first black man to serve in 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 comptroller and the Democratic and Republican primary for lieutenant governor.
None of the nine incumbent Democratic members of the US House face primary challengers. There are two contested Republican primaries in the 8th and 9th congressional districts.
A new state law makes “no excuse” mail-in ballots and early voting permanent contests 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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