Doughty says Diehl cannot win running as an Alabama Republican

Diehl says his best political decision was endorsing Trump in 2016

POLITICAL NEWCOMER Chris Doughty trails in the Republican primary race for governor, but in a debate Wednesday night with his rival Geoff Diehl he more than held his own and made a clear case for his candidacy.

Diehl, meanwhile, sent a clear message to Republican primary voters that he and former president Donald Trump are teammates in the race and that his experience on Beacon Hill as a state representative from Whitman, his previous unsuccessful run for statewide office against Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and his referendum campaign against the indexing of the state’s gasoline tax make him the better candidate for governor.

Conservative radio host and Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr, a big fan of Trump, moderated the debate fairly but fell victim to a format that allowed for little back and forth between the candidates and was repeatedly interrupted by long commercial breaks. The debate was sponsored by the conservative Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance.

Doughty has often seemed shaky on the campaign trail and in press interviews, but during the debate he appeared to find his footing.

He repeatedly trumpeted his work running a 300-employee manufacturing plant in Wrentham called Capstan Atlantic and said the skills he developed there over the last 30 years would translate well to the governor’s office.

For example, he said he knows the challenges businesses face in Massachusetts and would use that knowledge to cut red tape and regulations and find ways to keep existing businesses here and attract new ones to the state. He said he knows how to keep jobs growing in Massachusetts.

Sometimes Doughty’s answers sounded a bit naïve.  He portrayed himself as someone with a “reasonable, common-sense practical view of the world” who would run state government pretty much the way he runs his business, using spreadsheets and a calculator to analyze and cut waste out of the $50 billion state budget. He said he would set up a hotline for parents to call if they are concerned about what their children are being taught.

Neither candidate bit when Carr asked them to rate Trump and Gov. Charlie Baker and state which politician they are more aligned with. Baker is perhaps the most popular politician in Massachusetts and Trump is a huge favorite among Republicans.

Doughty didn’t choose a favorite. Instead, he said he admired Baker’s ability to hold the line against new taxes and Trump’s courage in standing up for free trade policies.

Radio host and Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr moderated the Republican primary debate on his radio show.

Diehl, likewise, noted Baker endorsed him when he ran for the US Senate in 2018 and said he admired the governor’s willingness to dive into the weeds of public policy. He noted Trump has endorsed him for governor and said the best political decision he ever made was endorsing Trump for office in 2016. He said Trump’s four years in office were the best the country has seen in a long time.

In answering a question about his experience, Diehl shifted gears and sought to undermine Doughty’s business skills, pointing out that Doughty’s firm has been hit with 12 environmental violations and negotiated 18 court settlements with employees.

The debate moved on to what to do about the MBTA but Doughty ignored the question. Instead, he chalked the environmental violations and the court settlements raised by Diehl up to the difficulty of doing business in Massachusetts, something he would remedy if elected.

And then he fired back at Diehl, claiming that as a state representative from 2011 to 2019 he succeeded in getting one home rule petition passed into law and nothing else. Doughty said most of Diehl’s former colleagues in the Legislature are endorsing him.

Diehl said didn’t get elected to the House to make friends on Beacon Hill, but instead to push for changes he thought were needed even if they weren’t politically popular. He said he filed legislation to create term limits for the House speaker, to require voters to show identification in order to vote, and to bar tax dollars from going to support a Boston Olympics bid.

Doughty said Diehl’s go-it-alone style would not work in the governor’s office, pointing out that a Republican governor has to work with the Democrats in the Legislature if he wants to get anything done.

Diehl suggested Democratic control of the Legislature may be coming to an end. He said “a red wave” is starting to spread across Massachusetts with voters fed up with masks, vaccination mandates, and assorted other policies. He predicted Republicans will make big gains in state elections this year and perhaps take control of the Legislature two years from now.

As he did at the Republican state convention, where he defeated Doughty handily, Diehl promised to rehire every state worker who lost his or her job by refusing to be vaccinated against COVID. Doughty said he would do the same.

Doughty said Diehl is not electable in a general election in Massachusetts. “We all know it. Every single one of us listening to this radio know that Geoff cannot win running as an Alabama Republican in the state of Massachusetts,” he said. “A vote for Geoff Diehl is a vote for Maura Healey. You can love him, embrace him, but when you go to the voting box you and I know that if we vote for Geoff he’s going to get killed in the general election and we end up with the disaster known as Maura Healey.”

Diehl seemed to be caught off guard by Doughty’s vehemence, and responded by noting that Doughty voted for Hilary Clinton in 2016.

“There’s your loyal Republican coming in out of the blue and running for governor,” Diehl said. “When you lose, I’m sure you’re going to be gone again so a vote for Chris Doughty is a vote for the next Democrat.”