SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) — Massachusetts Republicans held their state party convention on Saturday as they wrestle with how far to the right they should move in a deeply blue state.
Members of the state GOP gathered in Springfield ahead of this autumn’s elections to hear from candidates and party leaders as they hope to rebuild a bloc that’s lost nearly all of the levers of political power in the state.
The top job for Republicans is hanging on to the governor’s office.
Gov. Charlie Baker, who has remained popular with voters throughout his two terms in the corner office, has decided not to seek a third, four-year term. Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito are the only statewide Republican officeholders in Massachusetts.
Neither planned to attend Saturday’s convention, reflecting a rift between them and former state Rep. James Lyons, the state’s GOP chairman, a stalwart supporter of former President Donald Trump.
Former GOP state representative Geoff Diehl and Wrentham business owner Chris Doughty are both vying for the chance to succeed Baker. The first hurdle both candidates faced at Saturday’s convention was gathering the support of at least 15% of delegates — a threshold needed to make sure their name appears on the Sept. 6 primary ballot.
Diehl won the support of 71% of the delegates, while Doughty came away with 29%.
Diehl has the backing of Trump, who endorsed his candidacy in October, calling him strong on crime, election integrity, the southern border and taking care of veterans.
Diehl was the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in 2018 and lost to Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren. He also served as co-chair for Trump’s Massachusetts 2016 presidential campaign.
Doughty has touted his success at creating jobs as the president of a company that manufactures metal machine parts.
He’s said he wants to protect businesses, recruit high-paying jobs to the state, make Massachusetts an educational leader from early education through college and trade schools, and make the state more affordable.
Following a Republican tradition in Massachusetts politics, both candidates have named their preferred running mate — although candidates for lieutenant governor and governor run separately in the primary and only as a ticket in the Nov. 8 general election.
Diehl is teaming up with former Republican State Rep. Leah Allen Cole while Doughty is hoping for a ticket with former state Rep. Kate Campanale.
Shiva Ayyadurai, who in 2020 lost a Republican primary bid for the U.S. Senate, has also said he’s running for governor.
Whoever wins will face the winner of the Democratic primary for governor, a race that includes Attorney General Maura Healey and state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz.
There is little Republican primary drama in other statewide races.
Rayla Campbell, a Randolph resident and Republican who has worked in insurance and claims management, is running for secretary of state. Republican Jay McMahon, a trial attorney and lifelong Cape Cod resident, is running for attorney general, a job he ran for and lost in 2018 to Healey.
Anthony Amore, the head of security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, is running for state auditor. Amore ran for secretary of state in 2018 and lost.