Massachusetts GOP voters rate Trump loyalists as governor

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BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Republicans are weighing which candidate has the best chance of keeping the governorship in the hands of the GOP when they vote in Tuesday’s primary: a former state legislator, Donald Trump’s supported, or a political newcomer who presents himself as a more moderate choice.

Geoff Diehl and Chris Doughty are vying for a chance to replace incumbent Republican Governor Charlie Baker, who has opted out of a third term.

Democrats have an easier decision. Attorney General Maura Healey — she would become the first woman and first openly gay candidate for governor-elect if she wins — faces no challengers after the only other Democrat on the ballot dropped out of the race.

Republican voters in the state will be just the last to decide whether the party will continue to embrace Trumpism or be ready to move back toward 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 beating a Democrat in November’s general election.

Diehl, the favorite among Massachusetts Republican Party delegates, has ties to Trump that stretch back to 2016, when he served as co-chair for Trump’s presidential campaign in the state. Trump lost Massachusetts by almost 30 percentage points in his two presidential campaigns. Diehl has also spoken out against COVID-19 protocols and welcomed the Supreme Court ruling that Roe v. Wade was lifted.

Doughty, a businessman, said he supports some of Trump’s initiatives but wants to focus on the challenges Massachusetts is facing, which he says are increasingly prohibitive.

Diehl has embraced Trump’s false claims that he lost the 2020 election. Diehl said last year he didn’t believe 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 both is that while support for Trump may resonate well among the conservative wing of the party, it could be a political albatross in a state where registered Republicans make up less than 10% of voters, compared to about 31% for Democrats and about 57% for Independents.

Diehl faced a similar struggle when he challenged Democratic US Senator Elizabeth Warren in 2018. He won a three-run Republican primary only to win just over a third of the vote in the general election.

Doughty said he would work to lower taxes and has said that while he considers himself “pro-life,” he accepts the state Supreme Court’s decision recognizing an abortion right in Massachusetts.

Doughty has reported raising nearly $2.3 million for his campaign, most of it out of his own pocket, compared to Diehl, who raised about $582,000. Healey has the largest campaign bank account — about $3.4 million.

Massachusetts has a history of being elected by fiscally conservative, socially moderate Republican governors — including former governors. William Weld and Mitt Romney – to review the overwhelming majority of Democrats in the legislature. Another Republican in this form, Baker remains popular in the state.

The election also includes several nationally contested Democratic primaries, including for Attorney General and Secretary of the Commonwealth.

Two Democrats are fighting for the top law enforcement agency: former Boston City Councilwoman Andrea Campbell and labor rights attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan. A week before the election, a third candidate, former Assistant Attorney General Quentin Palfrey, announced that he was suspending his campaign and supported Campbell; he remains on the ballot.

Campbell would become the first black woman to hold office in Massachusetts if elected.

The winner faces Republican Jay McMahon, a trial attorney who previously ran against Healey and lost.

The current Democratic Secretary of the Commonwealth, William Galvin, is running for an eighth term. He accepts a challenge from Democrat Tanisha Sullivan, president of the Boston branch of the NAACP. Sullivan would be the first black person to hold that post in the state.

The winner will face Republican Rayla Campbell in November. Campbell is also black.

There are also contested races in the Democratic Grammar School for the Comptroller and for the Democratic and Republican races for Lieutenant Governor.

None of the nine incumbent members of the state’s Democratic U.S. House of Representatives face major challengers. There are two contested Republican primary elections in the 8th and 9th congressional districts.

A new state law is making absentee ballots and no-parenting early voting a staple of Massachusetts elections. Many of the choices included in the new law were introduced during the height of the coronavirus pandemic and proved popular.

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For full coverage of the midterms, follow AP at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections and on Twitter, https://twitter.com/ap_politics.

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