Can Republicans keep their hold on the gubernatorial seat in Massachusetts? It seems odd, but it’s true — the GOP has had a near stranglehold on the top office of this very blue state for 30 years. Since Michael Dukakis’ term ended in 1991, only Duval Patrick’s two successive terms has kept Republicans out of the governor’s office in the Bay State.
Tonight’s primaries will settle whether the GOP follows the traditionally successful centrist path to keeping the seat, or tries conservo-populism for a new generation. Karen has already broken down this race just a little while earlier, so be sure to read her analysis of the battle between state representative Geoff Diehl, who vaulted to front-runner status with an endorsement from Donald Trump, and businessman Chris Doughty. The outsider has argued that the Trump endorsement might be the kiss of general-election death in Democrat-heavy Massachusetts:
[Sitting governor Charlie Baker’s] departure, in the face of intraparty opposition for his criticism of former President Donald Trump and the prospect of a primary challenge, paved the way for former state Rep. Geoff Diehl to claim front-runner status for the GOP nomination. Diehl is Trump’s pick in a primary with businessman Chris Doughty, who, despite being complimentary of the former President, has argued that his political brand is toxic in the Bay State and a statewide candidate like Diehl would be doomed to defeat in the general election.
In his endorsement of Diehl last year, Trump mostly railed against Baker – who had not yet announced he wouldn’t run again – denouncing the governor as a “RINO,” or Republican in Name Only, and saying his climate policy views were “fresh out of the AOC playbook,” a reference to progressive New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“Geoff Diehl, on the other hand, is a true patriot, a believer in low energy costs and our independent energy policy,” Trump said.
But Diehl, if he wins the nomination Tuesday, would be a heavy underdog to the expected Democratic nominee, state Attorney General Maura Healey, who – after months of weighing her options – jumped into the open-seat race less than two months after Baker bowed out.
Doughty managed to get enough delegates at the state convention to force this primary fight, even though Diehl got the endorsement. Even so, as MassLive reports, Doughty has also felt pressured to move toward more conservative positions as a way to convince Republicans to choose him as the pragmatic nominee:
Doughty described himself as moderate when he entered the race but has since embraced the label of conservative as he tries to appeal to Republican primary voters. Doughty has said his experience running a manufacturing company gives him the know-how to be a successful chief executive.
He has said he wants to make Massachusetts more affordable for residents and businesses. He has described himself as “pro-life,” but acknowledges the state’s highest court has recognized a right to abortion and said he doesn’t have an interest in changing that.
Baker hasn’t endorsed either candidate.
That in itself might help Diehl, at the very least by not hurting him with an outright endorsement of Doughty. In the current environment, however, even Baker might have had trouble in a general election. Democrats have turned up the divisiveness as a midterm strategy, especially Joe Biden, hoping to cash in on party tribalism. This may all be moot in two months anyway, regardless of which candidate wins this race and even whether the party unites behind him.
That’s the marquee race for this evening. Republicans also have contested primaries in House races for MA-08 and MA-09, but MA-08 is a D+14 district and likely out of reach. The 9th district is only D+6, but it’s been 60 years since a Republican won it. In this cycle that could make for an interesting choice, but just keep in mind that current Democratic incumbent Bill Keating won his last election 61/36 in this D+6 district.
Live results will start after polls close at 8 pm ET.