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 Democrat Attorney General Maura Healey, who would be the first openly gay person and the first woman elected governor if she wins in November. Current GOP Gov. 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. Voters in Connecticut and Maryland, liberal states where centrist Republicans have found some success in previous elections, also selected hard-line conservatives 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 overruling 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 calls for election integrity after the 2020 election. Diehl said last year he did not think it was a “stolen election" but later said the election was rigged. 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 might play well among the party's conservative wing but 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 Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. in 2018. He won a three-way Republican primary only to capture just over one-third of the vote in the general election.
Massachusetts has a history of electing fiscally conservative, socially moderate Republican governors — including former Govs. William Weld and Mitt Romney — to provide a check on overwhelming Democrat legislative majorities. Baker, another Republican in that mold, was once polling as the most popular governor in the U.S.
Healey has said she would work to expand job training programs, make child care 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 overruling Roe v. Wade.
But Healey does face an oddball hurdle in Massachusetts — the so-called curse of the attorney general. Since 1958, six former Massachusetts attorneys general have sought the governor's office. All failed.
The state has previously had a female governor, though she was appointed to the position. Republican Jane Swift served as acting governor after Gov. Paul Cellucci stepped down in 2001 to become U.S. ambassador to Canada.
Tuesday's election also features several statewide contested Democrat primaries, including for attorney general and 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 endorsed Campbell; he remained on the ballot.
Campbell would be the first Black woman to hold the 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 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 attorney general.
Incumbent Democrat Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin, who is vying for an eighth term in office, defeated fellow Democrat Tanisha Sullivan, president 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 Democrat primary for auditor and in the Democrat and Republican races for lieutenant governor.
None of the state's nine incumbent Democrat U.S. House members is facing primary challengers. There are two contested Republican primaries in the 8th and 9th congressional districts.
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