Diehl, through signature effort, finds an issue

GOP gubernatorial candidate seeks repeal of immigrant license law

REPUBLICAN GUBERNATORIAL candidate Geoff Diehl, whose campaign has been searching for an issue to run on, apparently helped create one.

Proponents of an initiative petition overturning a law allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses said on Wednesday they had gathered more than twice as many signatures as they need to put the measure on the November ballot — and they said Diehl’s campaign gathered the most signatures.

At a press conference near Faneuil Hall, Diehl said his campaign workers dropped everything they were doing to focus on gathering enough signatures to put the repeal on the ballot. Officials said 78,000 have been certified – just over 40,000 are required — and more than 100,000 gathered.

“This is democracy in action and I’m so proud to be a part of it,” said Diehl, who as a state representative previously mounted a successful ballot initiative to repeal a law tying the state gas tax to inflation.

Diehl, who has been endorsed by former president Donald Trump,  said there are many issues facing the state. He has vowed to rehire state workers fired by Gov. Charlie Baker for refusing to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, but otherwise hasn’t found a rallying cry issue in his battle against Chris Doughty in the Republican primary for governor.

Diehl said he is all for “legal immigration,” and would favor efforts to help immigrants become citizens more quickly. But he said he is not in favor of a workaround that allows people who are in the country illegally to obtain driver’s licenses. Diehl noted Baker vetoed the legislation and his veto was overridden by the Legislature.

Diehl said he can’t wait for Election Day when he expects to be elected governor and “we don’t have to do this kind of work anymore.”

Jim Lyons, the chair of the Massachusetts Republican Party, said the signature effort was hindered by Democrats who sought to harass and intimidate voters interested in signing the petitions.

He criticized Attorney General Maura Healey, who is running unopposed in the Democratic primary for governor, for failing to protect the rights of the people gathering the signatures.

“The media has been silent on that, just like the media is always silent. They refuse to point out the radical nature of the left,” he said.

“Can you imagine if the liberals were out there trying to get something on the ballot and people on the right went out and tried to interfere. They would be putting us in handcuffs,” he said.

Elizabeth Sweet, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, issued a statement saying her organization is ready to fight to preserve the law authorizing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.

“The Work and Family Mobility Act keeps people safer by ensuring that all drivers, regardless of immigration status, know and follow the rules of the road, take the same driver’s test, and have insurance when they need it. If this issue makes it to the fall ballot, our united coalition – which includes police chiefs, district attorneys, and more – will promote keeping this smart, common sense, humane policy on the books,” she said.

Maureen Maloney of Milford, who chaired the committee gathering the signatures, said her son was killed in 2011 by a drunk driver who was an undocumented immigrant. She insisted passage of the law will not improve public safety.

“It will not make our roads safer,” she said. “It will lead to voter fraud.”