Diehl joins Guv’s race, creating potential for Baker primary

FILE - In this Aug. 1, 2017, file photo, Massachusetts Republican Geoff Diehl officially kicks off his campaign for the U.S. Senate against Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren in Boston.

BOSTON — The first Republican candidate for governor in 2022 is former state Rep. Geoff Diehl, who announced his plans at a festival in western Massachusetts on Saturday by questioning Gov. Charlie Baker’s approach to pandemic management and pledging to counter “the impact of over-taxation and reckless spending by government.”

A member of the Republican State Committee and supporter of former President Donald Trump, Diehl served four terms in the Massachusetts House representing Abington, East Bridgewater, and Whitman. He ran for state Senate in 2015 but lost to Sen. Michael Brady. In 2018, Sen. Elizabeth Warren handily defeated Diehl, although he has rung up nearly 1 million votes and gained the experience of running a statewide campaign in Massachusetts.

Diehl’s campaign, which circulated a Saturday night press release about his launch, said that he announced his candidacy at a July 4 “Freedom Festival” hosted by the Western MA GOP Patriots.

Among his stated priorities are assisting small businesses, supporting law enforcement, ensuring equal educational opportunities for children, and finding a “state solution for the national problem of immigration hurdles that keep people from becoming vital, legal citizens of this great nation.”

“It is time for a new path forward,” Diehl said, according to his campaign. “It is time to re-empower the individual. It is time to free our economy. It is time to help our children overcome the damage inflicted by the government over this past year. A time to provide our communities with a safe and healthy tomorrow. In a Diehl Administration, everyone will be considered essential, every day.”

Three Democrats - Harvard professor Danielle Allen, Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, and former Sen. Ben Downing - are running for governor already. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who has won broad appeal across the electorate but faces some of his most vocal opposition within his own party, is deciding whether to seek a third term.

According to Diehl’s campaign, he was furloughed from his job in the health care sector during the pandemic and had to work with his wife KathyJo to keep their performing arts studio going.

Diehl questioned Baker’s pandemic management, which has earned him high marks in public opinion polls while also being described alternately by critics as too heavy-handed or not restrictive enough.

“The pandemic response of a total shutdown of the economy, followed by arbitrary federal, state, and local regulations only made it harder for the small businesses to stay alive, especially in the restaurant and hospitality industries,” he said. “And I remain mystified how the big box stores like Home Depot remained open while your local hardware store was forced to close. Let that chapter of our state’s history remain a powerful example of what can never happen again.”

Diehl scored a major victory in 2014 when voters statewide repealed the law indexing the gas tax to inflation, and he said Saturday that he opposes a potential multi-state compact aimed at reducing transportation sector carbon emissions but which would also lead to higher gas prices. Baker supports that compact.

“The last thing working for families in Massachusetts need is added cost to commuting, food, and goods that are already being hit by the inflationary effects of massive federal spending,” Diehl said. “All the original New England states have failed to join in the ‘cap and trade scheme and even environmentalists discount the projections for emission reduction.”