Politics

MassGOP chair: Donald Trump would likely back Geoff Diehl over Charlie Baker in governor’s race

"He likes Geoff Diehl a lot. He likes what he stands for."

MassGOP Chairman Jim Lyons says former President Donald Trump would likely back former state Rep. Geoff Diehl, a longtime Trump supporter, in the race for governor over incumbent Charlie Baker, should next year’s primary come down to the two politicians.

“I believe that President Trump would travel to Massachusetts to help somebody who’s running for governor that stands for the things that we’re talking about, and Geoff Diehl’s name came up. The president brought it up,” Lyons said Thursday on “The Howie Carr Show.”

Lyons called in from Westchester, New York, not long after meeting with Trump at the former commander-in-chief’s golf club.

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“He likes Geoff Diehl a lot,” he said of Trump. “He likes what he stands for.”

Diehl was the first Massachusetts Republican lawmaker to back Trump in 2016 and served as the co-chair of Trump’s Bay State campaign in that election. In 2018, Diehl was the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate against Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Last month, Diehl announced he would seek the Republican nomination in next year’s governor race. Baker has not yet said if he will seek a third term.

Still, Diehl’s foray into the race is more evidence of fractures within the state party, which, under Lyon’s tenure, has butted heads with Baker, a moderate who publicly criticized Trump while the latter was in office, including by vocalizing support for his second impeachment earlier this year.

Amid party infighting in recent months, Baker said last month he and other elected Republican officials “don’t believe many of the recent decisions and statements that have been made by the leadership at the state party are consistent with where we believe most Republicans are generally.”

But Lyons indicated on Thursday he has the support of Trump, who invited him to the club, for his vision for the state party.

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“I met with the president and talked about, you know, exactly what we’re trying to do up here in Massachusetts, and he was 100 percent supportive of the fact that we got to stand for the issues that matter to the people of Massachusetts,” Lyons told host Howie Carr. “I think that’s the one thing that we all know about President Trump: He was totally unafraid. And I asked him to help us, and he told me that he definitely would.”

Carr asked if Baker came up in the conversation. Lyons confirmed he did.

“It’s crystal clear to me that President Trump and Charlie Baker don’t look at the world the same way, and he made it perfectly clear to me that he believes that the direction that we’re moving this party in is the direction that we ought to be moving it in — building it from the grassroots, standing for issues that are important to the people,” Lyons said. “And I don’t think that President Trump is a fan of Gov. Baker.”

Lyons cannot endorse candidates, but said “my feelings from the president is that he would sooner like to see an exciting race up here.”

In a statement to the Boston Herald, Diehl said he was “proud of the accomplishments (Trump) achieved during his time in office.”

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“To have his support in my campaign for Governor shows that the former President cares about the future of Massachusetts and sees me as a key part of that future,” Diehl said.

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