Gov. Charlie Baker still has not announced if he plans to run for a third term next year, but if he does jump into the race, he's already got a primary challenger to contend with: Geoff Diehl.
Diehl served as a state representative for eight years, helped lead a successful effort on the ballot to repeal the indexing of the gas tax to inflation, described himself as a co-chair of Donald Trump’s Massachusetts campaign in 2016 and ran against Senator Elizabeth Warren for her seat in 2018. He launched his gubernatorial bid on Sunday.
Diehl joined Jim Braude on Greater Boston Wednesday to talk about why he’s seeking the seat, issues he’s seen in the Baker administration and state- and nation-wide GOP political questions.
“I ran in 2010 for state rep because I thought I could make a difference for the town I live in, for the towns I represented,” Diehl said. “I got to see a lot more when I got to Beacon Hill about what's going on in the state. And I got to see a lot more in 2018 when I ran for U.S. Senate. I think I've got still something to give for Massachusetts and I'd like to obviously run in the Republican primary and then — if I have an opponent — and then take my case to the people for 2022.”
Diehl levied criticisms against the Baker administration over the hardships that small businesses faced during the pandemic, saying that the state government could have laid off or furloughed non-essential employees to show reciprocity with those working in the private sector. He also called out the state government on the slow initial rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations and the deaths at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.
Braude noted that Massachusetts now has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, and asked “Does [Baker] deserve credit for that?”
“We also had the third highest per capita death rate,” Diehl responded. “I mean, does he deserve blame for that?”
He also took questions on several thorny political issues in state and national GOP politics. In May, Massachusetts Republican State Committee member Deborah Martell wrote in an email that she was “sickened” that a Republican Congressional candidate who is married to a man had adopted kids. Gov. Baker and others called for her to resign from the panel.
“First of all, I totally side with the candidate, Jeffrey Sossa-Paquette — very nice guy, lovely family, absolutely support his run for Congress,” Diehl said. “Secondly, I think the state committeewoman who made the comments was wrong in what she said. The biggest problem we have is that our bylaws don't permit for removal of a member for free speech. And I understand that that speech may not be anything that anybody agrees with, all I'm saying is there is nothing in our bylaws that allows for removal.”
Diehl said that, had he been elected to the U.S. Senate in 2018, he would have voted for the bi-partisan commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection — which would have meant breaking with all of his Republican colleagues in the Senate.
The 2020 election, he said, was not stolen from former President Donald Trump.
“I don't think it was a stolen election,” Diehl said. “I just think that, again, at this point, we need to move forward, stop crying over spilled milk as a Republican Party and look towards the future.”
Braude also asked about who Diehl sees as his potential base, given Baker's popularity and that registered Republicans make up just 10% of the Massachusetts’ electorate.
“People know who I am, they know what I stand for, I think they appreciate it,” Diehl said. “And this state will elect someone who is a Republican governor. I may be center-right, Charlie Baker may govern center-left, but I think, given the choice of who the Democratic nominee may be, center-right may be what they're looking for.”
WATCH: Geoff Diehl on his campaign for governor