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Geoff Diehl Wins the Republican Primary for Governor of Massachusetts

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Geoff Diehl, a right-wing former state legislator endorsed by former President Donald J. Trump, won the Republican primary for governor of Massachusetts, based on The Associated Press, making his party an infinite underdog to carry on to an office this fall that moderate Republicans have occupied for twenty-four of the last 32 years.

Mr. Diehl defeated Chris Doughty, a centrist, self-funding businessman who argued that Mr. Diehl was running a campaign “targeted to Alabama voters” and will not win a general election in Massachusetts.

Mr. Diehl, who lost the 2018 Senate election to Senator Elizabeth Warren by 24 points, is taken into account unlikely to pose a big challenge to Maura Healey, the Massachusetts attorney general whose lone Democratic rival dropped out of the first race in June. Ms. Healey has raised five times more cash than has Mr. Diehl, and a Boston Globe poll in late July found she held a 30-point lead.

With Illinois and Maryland, Massachusetts became the third heavily Democratic state — and the second with a departing Republican governor — to nominate a right-wing, Trump-endorsed candidate for governor over a more moderate rival. Republicans have also chosen Trump-backed candidates for governor in primaries in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all narrowly divided states where whoever is elected in November may have enormous sway over how the 2024 presidential election is conducted.

Mr. Diehl, who was a co-chairman of Mr. Trump’s 2016 primary campaign in Massachusetts, has adopted an array of positions common to Trump partisans, including repeating Mr. Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him. He selected Leah Cole Allen, a former state legislator who was fired from her job as a nurse after refusing to be vaccinated for the coronavirus, as his selection for lieutenant governor, and he or she was declared the winner on Wednesday morning.

With the primaries winding down, each parties are beginning to shift their focus to the final election on Nov. 8.

“He’ll rule your state with an iron fist,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Diehl during a conference call with supporters Monday, using the identical language he employed to praise China’s authoritarian leader, Xi Jinping, at a Pennsylvania rally Saturday.

That argument has not won over Republican skeptics.

“He’s not a superb candidate,” said Ron Kaufman, a Republican National Committee member from Massachusetts. “He’s lost the last 4 elections he’s run in.”

Mr. Diehl’s nomination may very well be a notch against the numerous successes by moderate Republicans in holding the highest office in Massachusetts, including Bill Weld’s victory in 1990, Mitt Romney’s tenure and Gov. Charlie Baker’s two terms. Mr. Baker, who’s more popular in polling amongst Democratic and independent voters than he’s amongst fellow Republicans, selected not to hunt re-election after Mr. Trump endorsed Mr. Diehl last October. Massachusetts allows voters not registered with a celebration to weigh in on any primary.

Republicans make up just 9 percent of registered voters in Massachusetts, based on data from the secretary of the commonwealth, though voters who don’t have a celebration affiliation — about 60 percent of the electorate — are allowed to vote in either party’s primary.

Mr. Doughty had sought to take up the mantle of moderate Republicans leading the state this 12 months. Like Mr. Romney, he’s a wealthy Mormon businessman who ran for office as a social moderate (though Mr. Romney modified a few of his views when he ran for national office), vying to appeal to the state’s independent voters and function a check on Democrats, who’ve controlled the Massachusetts Legislature since 1959.

But then Mr. Trump endorsed Mr. Diehl, and the Massachusetts Republican Party followed. Mr. Doughty, who has said he voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, had support from Gov. Chris Sununu of Recent Hampshire, one other popular moderate Republican, but he failed to achieve significant traction among the many state’s independent voters, who’ve long boosted moderate Republicans in primaries.

Mr. Diehl gave Mr. Doughty few opportunities to indicate the contrast between them. With a commanding lead in primary polling, Mr. Diehl refused to debate Mr. Doughty except on a conservative talk radio show hosted by one in all his supporters. They met for one radio debate, in July, hosted by Howie Carr, a Boston radio host and Trump ally who initially backed Mr. Diehl after which last week threw his support to Mr. Doughty.

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