Geoff Diehl, a former state representative endorsed by former President Donald Trump, has won the Republican nomination for Massachusetts governor over businessman Chris Doughty, who was considered the more moderate candidate in the race.
The victory for Diehl sets up a general election contest against Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey, who would be the first openly gay person and the first woman elected governor if she wins in November. The state’s current governor, Republican Charlie Baker, decided against seeking a third term.
Republican voters made Massachusetts the latest blue state this midterm season to nominate a Trump loyalist in a high-profile race, potentially dooming the party’s chances of winning in November. Voters in Connecticut and Maryland, liberal states where centrist Republicans have found some success in previous elections, also selected far-right candidates to go up against a Democrat in the general election.
Healey, whose only rival for the nomination dropped out of the race but remained on the ballot, will be the heavy favorite in November against Diehl in one of the most liberal states in the nation.
Diehl, the favorite among state Republican Party delegates in Massachusetts, has ties to Trump stretching to 2016, when he served as co-chair for Trump’s presidential campaign in the state. Diehl has also opposed COVID-19 protocols and hailed the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.
Doughty said he supported some of Trump’s initiatives but wanted to focus on challenges facing Massachusetts, which he said is increasingly unaffordable.
Diehl has come to embrace Trump’s false claims that he won the 2020 election. Diehl said last year that he didn’t think it was a “stolen election” but 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, has said he believes President Joe Biden was legitimately elected.
The challenge for Diehl in the general election is that support of Trump 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 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 a three-way Republican primary only to capture just over a third of the vote in the general election.