On a shoestring budget, and with the endorsement of the 45th president, Republican Geoff Diehl sailed to a primary victory and on to a November contest with Attorney General Maura Healey.
“I am proud tonight to accept the Republican nomination to be your next governor of Massachusetts,” Diehl said. “Today our hard work got rewarded by a convincing primary win.”
Diehl joined supporters in Weymouth for a victory party Tuesday night and to celebrate the win over his opponent, self-funded Wrentham businessman Chris Doughty, despite the fact the wealthy manufacturing executive dropped $2.4 million of his own fortune on the race.
Diehl’s campaign managed to win with less than $17,000 in the bank at the end and against an ongoing onslaught of television ads and the recent endorsement of his opponent by conservative radio legend and Herald columnist Howie Carr.
The endorsement of Trump, first announced last October, seems to have been enough to carry former state Rep. Diehl through the primary.
That endorsement was essentially the last voters heard from Trump about the race in Massachusetts until late Monday when the former president held a “tele-rally” for Diehl’s campaign, telling voters Doughty was nothing more than a tool of outgoing Gov. Charlie Baker.
“(Diehl is) the only conservative running for Massachusetts governor,” Trump said Monday night. “Geoff is a proven fighter who successfully pushes back on the liberal extremists.”
Trump’s endorsement of Diehl and outspoken distaste for Baker was enough to leave the incumbent with little hope of winning a GOP primary, despite generally being seen as a popular governor. Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announced in December they would not seek re-election to third terms.
The Whitman Republican will have his work cut out for him in the general election. Healey’s war chest approaches $7 million.
Diehl has made a good start with a recent signature drive to add a question to the November ballot, collecting over 100,000 signatures to ask voters whether they would overturn a new law that allows illegal immigrants to get a driver’s license.
“One party rule does not work on Beacon Hill,” Diehl said. “I believe our state should never hand driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Maura Healey, she would just give them out.”
MassGOP chairman Jim Lyons was on hand to congratulate Diehl, who he said was the only candidate that would follow in the footsteps of Trump.