BOSTON — Geoff Diehl, a former state representative who is backed 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 win for Diehl sets off a general election contest against Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey, who would become the first openly gay person and the first woman to become governor if she wins in November. The state’s current governor, Republican Charlie Baker, decided not to seek a third term.
Republican voters made Massachusetts the latest blue state this mid-season to nominate a Trump loyalist in a high-profile race, potentially ruining the party’s chances of winning in November. Voters in Connecticut and Maryland, liberal states where centrist Republicans have had some success in previous elections, also selected far-right candidates to run 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 all-time favorite against Diehl in November in one of the country’s most liberal states.
Diehl, the favorite among Massachusetts Republican Party delegates, has ties to Trump that stretch back to 2016, when he co-chaired Trump’s presidential campaign in the state. Diehl has also opposed COVID-19 protocols, praising the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.
Doughty said he supported some of Trump’s initiatives but wanted to focus on the challenges Massachusetts faces, which he said are becoming increasingly unaffordable.
Diehl has come to embrace Trump’s false claims that he won the 2020 election. Diehl said last year 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 Trump’s support may play well in the conservative wing of the party, but 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 the self-employed.
Diehl faced a similar battle when he challenged Democratic US Senator Elizabeth Warren in 2018. He won a three-time Republican primary, taking just over a third of the vote in the general election.
Massachusetts has a history of electing fiscally conservative, socially moderate Republican governors — including former governments. William Weld and Mitt Romney – to control overwhelming Democratic legislative majorities. Baker, another Republican in that form, has remained popular in the state.
Healey has said she would work to expand job training programs, make childcare more affordable and modernize schools. Healey has also said she would protect “access to safe and legal abortion in Massachusetts” in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
But Healey does face a strange hurdle in Massachusetts — the so-called Attorney General’s Curse. Since 1958, six former Massachusetts attorneys have sought the governor’s office. All failed.
The state has previously had a female governor, although she was appointed to the position. Republican Jane Swift served as acting governor after Governor Paul Cellucci stepped down in 2001 to become US Ambassador to Canada.
Tuesday’s election also features several contentious Democratic primaries statewide, including those for the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Commonwealth.
Former Boston city councilor Andrea Campbell defeated workers’ rights attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan in the Democratic primary for attorney general. A week before the election, a third candidate, former Assistant Attorney General Quentin Palfrey, announced he was suspending his campaign and supporting Campbell; he stayed on the ballot.
Campbell would be the first black woman to hold office in Massachusetts if elected in November. She will face Republican Jay McMahon, a trial attorney who previously ran against Healey and lost.
Liss-Riordan has pumped millions of her own money into her campaign, including $6.3 million in August alone. Healey earned an annual salary of more than $185,000 as an attorney general.
Incumbent Democratic Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin, who is running for an eighth term, defeated fellow Democrat Tanisha Sullivan, chair of the Boston branch of the NAACP. Sullivan would have been the first black person to serve in the post if elected.
Galvin will face Republican Rayla Campbell in November. Campbell is also black.
There are also contested races in the Democratic primaries for auditor and in the Democratic and Republican races for lieutenant governor.
None of the nine incumbent Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives face primary challengers. There are two contested Republican primaries in the 8th and 9th congressional districts.