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For Geoff Diehl, it’s about options.
With two weeks until the Nov. 8 election and the early voting ballots already flowing into clerks offices across the state, the Republican nominee for Massachusetts governor is making his final pitch to voters as the defender of individual liberty — of, essentially, choices.
“The focus of the campaign has always been outreach on the issues important to the voters of Massachusetts: namely, freedom: economic freedom, individual freedom, and educational freedom,” Diehl, the self-described “libertarian Republican” and former state representative from Whitman, recently told Boston.com.
Earlier this month, this publication reached out to Diehl’s campaign and that of his opponent, Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey, with a request for interviews to be held over Zoom calls.
Both campaigns declined requests due to scheduling conflicts, but offered instead written responses from their candidates to questions over email.
Here’s what Diehl had to say in the final days of his campaign about a variety of issues, from housing and energy to the MBTA and his plan for giving parents more say in their children’s public school educations.
Editor’s note: Responses have been lightly edited for style and clarity.
When we last spoke before the primary election, you mentioned remote work and transportation as tools that can help make housing more affordable. Experts have said the state also has a housing deficit. What do you see as the roadblocks in creating more affordable housing, and what would you do as governor to address them?
Zoning relief will help to create more housing options, and reducing the number of regulations to building efforts will make building more affordable for the families here.
Do you support bringing back rent control in some form? If so, how would you get the state law changed? If not, how will your administration provide targeted relief to renters feeling the pinch of high housing costs?
The best way to help all residents of MA to afford their housing is to reduce the tax burden on them, and decrease the costs of their utilities so that it is more affordable to rent or own their homes.
Providing rent control at the same time that we are seeing gas prices spike due to Maura Healey shutting down pipelines means that we are simply running in circles.
This question was submitted by one of our readers. Rick Lamagna, of West Springfield, asked, “What are you doing about the increase of 64% for electricity and 36% increase in natural gas proposals? How do you expect residents to live on a fixed income? I’m retired and 65.”
The increased cost is directly tied to the lack of options for fuel.
My opponent shut down two pipelines, which decreased availability of fuel, and increased the need for electrical use, thereby increasing the cost because we don’t have enough available to fulfill the need. As such, I would immediately refund some of the $8 billion surplus the Commonwealth is holding to the residents; and I would immediately open up energy options to drive down the cost.
Another question we received from an anonymous reader: “What would you do to reduce the cost of houses so that the many students who come here can afford to stay and raise families, and those who grew up here can afford to stay or return after college?”
See answer above to housing/zoning/regulations issues which drive up the cost of housing.
You have criticized your opponent’s energy policy to have the state switch to an entirely clean electricity supply by 2030, calling the plan “irresponsible” and costly. You are, however, supportive of the need to switch to renewable energy. What does a responsible transition plan look like to you? Please be specific.
We need to first analyze what the market can bear for energy options before committing to an arbitrary deadline which punishes working people and increases their costs, bankrupting households. Speaking to industry leaders about what capacity we have will drive the goals of increasing capacity before mandating changes.
In Boston, residents and city leaders are still feeling the impact of the region’s opioid crisis, most acutely through the humanitarian crisis in the area known as Mass. and Cass. They have long said there is a need to de-centralize recovery services and have called on other communities to step up. If elected governor, would you seek to do that? If so, how?
Several times on the trail I have explained that the need for recovery services needs to be placed in suburbs and not just in cities. We need to work on mental health services as well to help our teens so that they don’t turn to drugs in the first instance.
All of this needs to happen throughout our Commonwealth, and I would seek to work with industry leaders to have recovery centers in our suburbs, and not just our cities.
As we head into the colder months, we may see another COVID-19 surge. Is there anything you would do as governor to better position the state’s response to handling case flare-ups?
For the last three years, the Commonwealth’s residents have been educated about Covid. They are able to make their own decisions. If they want to get vaccinated, wear masks, or isolate themselves, that is their choice. I will not be mandating business or school closures, I will not be mandating masks or vaccines. Individuals can make their own decisions.
On the MBTA, we received this question from Patrick S., a reader from South Boston: “How will you leverage state resources to fix ongoing issues with the T and support future service reliability and expansion?”
I think Governor Baker was on the right track with the fiscal control board he instituted, and I’d like to see that expanded to include safety issues as one of their responsibilities.
We need to immediately renegotiate contracts with entities who are providing poor materials, and we need to listen to our workers on the T to figure out how to make the necessary improvements.
Do you regularly ride on the MBTA or take the T?
Living on the South shore, that’s not a viable option for me. However, I would seek to expand the public transportation options across the Commonwealth as Governor.
Over the summer, the Federal Transit Administration issued a critical report on its safety inspection of the MBTA’s T system. Do you believe the T is safe to ride, and how would you work to make the T safer for passengers?
You released a plan that seeks to give parents more of a say in decisions made regarding their children’s education, including by requiring informed consent for “controversial curriculum subjects.” What curriculum subjects are being taught right now in Massachusetts schools that you consider controversial?
Due to the 2 year shutdown during Covid, our students are behind in basic core subjects. We should be focusing all of our effort on bringing them up to the educational levels MA is used to seeing, and not spending our time on social issues in our public schools.
Some states have prohibited or limited how and when teachers can cover gender identity and sexual orientation, particularly with young students. Florida, for example, passed a law in March banning teachers from covering those subjects from kindergarten through grade 3 “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” Would you seek to pass a similar law in Massachusetts, if elected?
As stated above, public schools need to be focusing on the core curriculum needs of our students. Material about sexual orientation and gender identity should be discussed by parents and medical professionals, particularly in the early grades, and not teachers and schools.
We received this question from a reader, Reed E. of Needham: “Recently, the FBI released its annual hate crime statistics report, which gives valuable insight into the complex social relations in our country. The results showed that Jews, as an ethnic and religious group, constituted almost 60% of all reported hate crimes. On this year’s anniversary of 9/11, signs were displayed above Route 1 in Saugus which blamed Jews for that terrible day. Knowing this, along with the prevalence of conspiracy theories that link Jews to the spread of COVID-19, what will you do to address and combat antisemitism in Massachusetts, and around our country if you are elected to the governor’s office?”
Anti-semitism, like all other hate crimes, is absolutely unacceptable. We need to encourage a culture of acceptance that celebrates the diversity of our different ethnic and religious roots here in Massachusetts. And, in cases where a crime is committed, it should be investigated swiftly and punished.
What, if anything, has struck you most or stood out to you about what has been presented at the hearings hosted by the Congressional Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol?
I am focused on what is happening here in MA, and what the voters are asking for help with going into our election.
On the trail, no one asks me about January 6th; instead, they are focused on how they are going to heat their homes, get their kids to school, run their businesses, and help their children through the emotional and mental issues Covid presented in their homes.
Voters backed you as the Republican nominee in September. What is your pitch to Democrats and independents who may be trying to decide on how to cast their vote for November?
I am the candidate who stands for individual freedom and individual choice. I want you to be economically free from over taxation, educationally free to choose the best schools for your children, and individually free to make your own life and health care choices. That cuts across all parties.
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