The Republican Party in Massachusetts is in the midst of an ideological divide that will determine the future of the party. Longstanding moderate conservatives are now contending with a growing branch of the party that leans further to the right.
With the nomination of Trump-backed Geoff Diehl in the race for governor raising questions about the future of the party, we asked Boston.com readers if the state should embrace this shift in the Republican Party, and most readers said they were disappointed to see the MassGOP become less moderate. Seventy-seven percent of the more than 200 readers who responded to our poll said the party shouldn’t move further to the right.
The MassGOP is “marching itself into oblivion,” said Rob from Northborough.
“By swinging far to the right, the MassGOP has guaranteed themselves irrelevance,” Matt from Ipswich said. “I don’t want Maura Healey to be our governor. I also can’t vote for Geoff Diehl. The MassGOP has guaranteed that moderates have nowhere to go in Massachusetts, and they’ve guaranteed single-party Democrat rule in the Commonwealth.”
Aside from Deval Patrick, a Democrat who served from 2007 to 2015, voters in the Bay State have chosen Republicans for the governor’s office since 1991. Several readers named these former governors — including Bill Weld, Paul Cellucci, and current governor Charlie Baker — as proof that voters want moderate conservatives in office.
The struggle over the future of the party is playing out in local races as well. On the North Shore, moderate Republican C.J. Fitzwater won the nomination for the First Essex District House over Samson Racioppi, a right-wing figure who in 2019 planned a “Straight Pride Parade” in Boston and organized buses to Washington, D.C., for the protest that preceded the Jan. 6 insurrection. Prior to Fitzwater’s win, Republican leaders in the state were divided over whether or not to endorse Racioppi but ultimately went with Fitzwater in the write-in contest.
Some readers, particularly those who identified themselves as Republicans, worry that straying from a more moderate path will all but guarantee progressives control over every level of government in the state. The latest Suffolk University poll has Diehl trailing Democratic opponent Maura Healey by at least 25 percentage points.
“I have always preferred a Republican governor to temper the Democratic House and Senate,” Gail from Pioneer Valley told Boston.com. “Will be voting Healy this time around due to Trump’s endorsement.”
Below you’ll find a sampling of responses from readers sharing their thoughts about the future of the Republican party in Massachusetts.
Some entries may be edited for length and clarity.
Do you think the Mass. Republican Party should embrace a move further to the right?
MassGOP is “assuring its further demise”
“It’s concerning they would move further right. Baker and Tomney were successful moderates. That is what is needed.” — Holly, Framingham
“If the nomination of Geoff Diehl, a Trump-backed candidate, is any indication, the state’s Republican Party is going the way of the national GOP as a whole: stirring up fear, anger, and division with ugly rhetoric and extremely misguided policies in the name of getting back into power on the state and federal level. If history has anything to teach us, those who rely on hate and fear to seek and hold onto power will inevitably fail. In letting itself go the way of Trump via his endorsed candidate, the Massachusetts Republican Party is risking both votes and its own political soul, not to mention its moral integrity.” — Dorothy T., Cohasset
“History has already shown Massachusetts GOP the winning formula. A candidate needs to be socially moderate, even if they are fiscally more conservative than their Democrat opponents. Bill Weld, Mitt Romney, and Charlie Baker’s wins are proof of that. But more importantly, GOP candidates need to display competence and a grasp of the issues, if not a track record of accomplishments in state government already. They need to stand FOR something, not just strive to be a stop against the Democratic party.” — Richard, Beverly
“As the Republican party moves to the right, it is assuring its further demise. The Republicans can’t even get enough people to run. For example, no Republican running for state treasurer or Suffolk County district attorney.” — Jane V., Needham
“I’m very disappointed. I think they are way out of step with the populace. This Commonwealth has succeeded when we have had moderate Republicans in office that balance the power with the Democrats. Prime examples are Governors Weld, Romney, and Baker. This state has moved forward, and the government has worked for the people. The current crop of Republican candidates are instead choosing to embrace Trump. His lies, his grift, his seditious behavior. No thank you.” — Jackie, Boston
“In a state that will remain deeply blue for a long time to come, moving further to the right on the political spectrum amounts to ‘party suicide’ for Massachusetts Republicans. The Republicans who have been elected to statewide office in the state have been much more moderate and that is by no means a coincidence. By and large, Massachusetts rejects the more extreme aspects of modern conservatism and therefore a move toward that area will result in even fewer elected Republicans than we already have. At this rate, many of these Republicans running for statewide office will relegate themselves to the status of ‘perennial candidates.’” — Alex, Cambridge
“Right now the MassGOP is too centralist”
“I think we definitely need to move further to the right. The future of our great state of Massachusetts depends on it. This wave of progressive democrats, which Maura Healy is, are far more harmful to our economy and safety than anything any Republican has to offer. It’s time for a change.” — PC, Plymouth
“I hope [Diehl] wins, but he needs to get out there and tell us what he can do for us who are hurting with high inflation costs, labor shortages, etc. We need big changes in this state and in the country. Our country is going underwater fast and we need to turn the clock back two years ago. The Democrats have made one bad decision after another.” — Diane M., Dracut
“My gut tells me that the beginning of a red wave is coming to Mass. and people like Geoff Diehl, Leah Allen, Rayla Campbell, Jay McMahon, Dean Tran, and Anthony Amore, among others are going to take the Commonwealth back to sanity and away from socialism.” — Tim S., Acton
“I consider myself center-right. Right now the MassGOP is too centralist, I’d like to see a slighter right lean on gun laws, fiscal spending, and crime.” — Dave N., Franklin
“The Republican Party needs to promote pro-business and taxpayer policies in order to stop the population loss that is occurring in this state. You can’t keep taxing people to death—they vote with their feet and leave. Zoning laws and building regulations need to be dramatically eased in this state to start producing more housing units. We are losing our young people to other states.” — Harry J., Woburn
Boston.com occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinions.