In absence of televised GOP debate, an assessment of Diehl and Doughty’s current positions

Although Geoff Diehl declined to debate Chris Doughty on TV, past interviews and current information can illuminate the race.

The Massachusetts State House. Jessica Rinaldi/Boston Globe

Election season is in full swing in Massachusetts, and the two Republican candidates in the gubernatorial primary are jockeying for position ahead of Sept. 6. On that day, either Geoff Diehl or Chris Doughty will earn the right to take on Democrat Maura Healey in November’s general election. 

As election day draws nearer, GBH News has hosted a series of debates centering on the races for attorney general, lieutenant governor, and state auditor. On Tuesday, GBH’s Jim Braude said during a broadcast that he hoped to continue the series by moderating a debate between Diehl and Doughty. However, Diehl refused. This, Braude said, was a first for the network. 


Instead of a debate, the network aired previously recorded interviews with both candidates and brought on political reporter Adam Reilly to provide context about the current state of the race. In a recent poll, Diehl was found to have a significant lead over Doughty despite, or perhaps because of, his alignment with former President Donald Trump. 

Diehl, a conservative former state representative who ran against Elizabeth Warren in 2018 for the United States Senate, is being advised by former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Doughty, on the other hand, is a wealthy businessman who has never run for political office before. Throughout the campaign, he has publicly positioned himself as a more moderate candidate than Diehl. 

Through the airing of past interviews and current analysis, GBH’s debate replacement still illuminated many aspects of the race between Diehl and Doughty. Here are a few takeaways. 

Economic concerns

Much of Doughty’s messaging focused on the high cost of living experienced by Massachusetts residents, as well as the economic factors that he says are negatively impacting businesses. 

“For our businesses, we are the most expensive state in the country to operate a business in. How many more businesses can we lose?” Doughty said in his previous interview with GBH. 


Doughty added that he believes the next governor will be forced to lead the state through a recession. This heightens the importance of “getting our balance sheet in order” and paying off debt, Doughty said. 

In his previous interview, Diehl also brought up business issues. Instead of focusing on their desire to leave the state, Diehl was more concerned about small businesses and how the pandemic affected them. He said that many large “box stores” were left open by pandemic rules, while small businesses were disproportionately targeted by forced closures. Diehl said he and his wife own a small business and were forced to close. 

“I think that the private sector was able to be resilient, but really not without a lot of interference by government,” Diehl said in his past GBH interview.

Trump’s influence

Although both candidates are focused on Massachusetts, the specter of Trump and his impact on the different factions within the larger Republican party will play a role with voters this fall. 

Diehl appears to have changed his stance on Trump’s unfounded claims that the 2020 Presidential Election was rigged. When interviewed by Braude in July 2021, Diehl said that he did not believe Trump’s claims that the election was “stolen,” and that “we need to move forward, stop crying over spilt milk as a Republican party.” 


But in October of last year, Diehl said that the election was, in fact, rigged. This change in opinion, he said, was fueled by audit results from Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania.

Also in October, Trump announced his endorsement of Diehl, calling him a “ true patriot.”

Doughty said that he voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, but supported Trump in 2020. When asked about this, Doughty said that Trump’s policies resonated with him, especially his stance on trade practices. Doughty said that he’s “grateful that someone eventually stood up to the Chinese.”

When asked about whether or not he will continue to support Trump during a potential 2024 candidacy, Doughty deflected, saying that the issues surrounding Trump are not the ones he’s running on. He said that, while out on the campaign trail, voters are not talking about Trump and are more worried about issues like the cost of living. Doughty added that he hopes the media can “pivot” away from Trump-related topics.

Comparisons with Baker 

Although current Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, is not seeking reelection, both Doughty and Diehl used his policies as a point of comparison. 

Diehl criticized Baker’s handling of the pandemic, specifically the hiccups that his administration experienced during the initial vaccine rollout last year. Baker’s administration deserves blame for the tragedy at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, where dozens of veterans died from the virus in 2020. Earlier this year, Baker agreed for the state to pay $56 million to the families of those who caught COVID there. 


Diehl positioned himself as more “right-leaning” than Baker.

“People know who I am, they know what I stand for. I think they appreciate it. This state will elect someone who is a Republican governor. I may be center-right, Charlie Baker may govern center-left, but I think… center-right may be what they’re looking for,” Diehl told Braude last year. 

When Doughty was interviewed on GBH last year, he called himself a fiscally-conservative moderate who is concerned about overspending, waste, and fraud. 

While he is pro-life, Doughty said, he has no intention of making changes to the abortion laws in Massachusetts. In 2020, Baker vetoed a bill designed to protect and expand abortion access. While Baker said he supports a woman’s right to access reproductive health care, he did not support the measure that allowed 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds to get abortions without parental consent. The Massachusetts Senate later voted to override Baker’s veto. Doughty said that, were he in Baker’s position, he would have also vetoed the bill. 

Now, Doughty is advertising himself as less of a moderate and more of a “conservative outsider” who is focused on affordability for working families and supporting police. 


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