Diehl Says He’d Be Asset for Baker, and No Rubber Stamp for Trump

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2018/09/13/diehl-says-hed-be-asset-for-baker-and-no-rubber-stamp-for-trump/

By Matt Murphy

Republican and President Donald Trump supporter Geoff Diehl said Thursday that he could be an “asset” to Governor Charlie Baker in Washington despite their policy differences, countering the message from Democrats that the governor’s support of his candidacy against Elizabeth Warren is a liability.

Diehl also pushed back against the notion that he would be a “rubber stamp” for Trump’s agenda in Congress, accusing Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jay Gonzalez of being “resentful” that Diehl successfully pushed a voter repeal of a plan from Beacon Hill Democrats to index the gas tax to inflation.

“A week after the primary and this is where he’s focusing his efforts seems to show that his campaign doesn’t have much to talk about,” Diehl said of Gonzalez after another volley of attacks from Democrats over Baker’s support for Diehl.

Gonzalez on Thursday continued to batter Baker over his endorsement of Diehl for U.S. Senate, hammering home Diehl’s ties to Trump, who is deeply unpopular in Massachusetts. Democrats have seized on Baker’s support for Diehl, a leading surrogate for Trump’s campaign in Massachusetts and the winner of the Republican U.S. Senate primary last week, as a wedge issue that could energize a Democratic base eager to take action against the president ahead of the 2020 election.

“Make no mistake. By working to help Geoff Diehl, Charlie Baker is supporting Donald Trump’s hateful and harmful agenda. He’s backing an anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant, pro-NRA agenda. It’s not O.K.” Gonzalez said at a press conference Democratic Party headquarters.

A Morning Consult poll released Thursday showed support for Trump in Massachusetts at among the lowest levels in the country, with just 36 percent saying they approve of the president.

Baker has not said who he voted for in the three-way Republican primary for U.S. Senate, but backed into an endorsement of Diehl on Friday when he told inquiring reporters that he would be supporting the entire GOP slate in November. His campaign has since pointed out that Baker did not vote for Trump and has opposed his party in Washington when he disagrees with its agenda.

Gonzalez, however, brought in state lawmakers and the state director of the Sierra Club to help make a case that Baker is trying to have it both ways.

Deb Pasternak, of the Sierra Club, said Trump’s administration has rolled back clean air and water protections, and wants to ease restrictions on carbon emissions. “Were he to become senator, he would rubber stamp Donald Trump’s agenda,” she said of Diehl.

Diehl, in an interview with the News Service, pointed out his opposition to the president’s proposal to eliminate the state and local tax deductions as part of the GOP tax reform plan, which Baker also opposed.

“I’ve certainly been willing to call out the president when he’s wrong, just like I don’t always agree with the governor,” Diehl said. “I think people know who I am from my record long before working on the ’16 campaign, whether it was working against the gas tax or pushing back against the Olympics.”

Diehl also said Gonzalez’s focus on him could be because of the role he played in repealing a portion of a tax law that indexed the gas tax to inflation.

“This is the candidate who as the former head of [Administration and Finance] was the architect of the failed indexing of the gas tax and I’m sure he’s resentful that his plan to tax families more didn’t work,” Diehl said.

Gonzalez had actually left the Patrick administration in 2013 by the time the Legislature came up with the plan to raise the gas tax and index it to inflation as an alternative to the $1.9 billion tax package Gonzalez helped put together.

Diehl said he did not expect Baker to be out door-knocking for his campaign, but anticipates the two men will cross paths on the trail from time to time.

For instance, Diehl said he expected to see the governor Thursday night at the Black Rose where he was going to help raise money by “pouring a few beers” for Dan Strange, a former Middlesex Sheriff’s office deputy and Trump campaign worker who is battling Stage 4 colon cancer.

A Baker campaign advisor said the governor had been planning to try to attend, but his schedule was disrupted Thursday evening by a series of gas explosions and fires in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover that prompted Baker to rush back to the State House to coordinate the response.

State Representative Marjorie Decker, a Cambridge Democrat and the sponsor of a “red flag” gun law, said Diehl voted against her bill that allows family and close friends to petition the court to have someone’s guns taken away if they pose a threat. Baker, she said, signed the bill, but “did not do the heavy lifting” it took to get it passed.

“He didn’t have to,” Decker said about Baker’s decision to endorse Diehl. “This would have been one of those moments to really show how he was different from Trump.”

Both Decker and Somerville state Representative Christine Barber said they often collaborate with Republicans on Beacon Hill, but do not have much of a working relationship with Diehl.

“Geoff Diehl is someone who has a right-wing agenda, is not interested in bipartisanship, and is not someone who is easy to work with or interested in the issues I care about,” Barber said.

State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) also attended to highlight Diehl’s support for repealing the Affordable Care Act, which Baker has opposed.

Baker had not said why he supports Diehl over Warren, given their opposing viewpoints on issues such as health care, gun control, and abortion, but the governor has consistently said during his years in office as he’s worked to build the MassGOP that he doesn’t have to agree with candidates on all the issues to support them.

“Governor Baker did not vote for President Trump, has consistently disagreed with and advocated against federal policies misaligned with the best interests of the Commonwealth, and remains focused on running his own campaign by communicating with voters about his record of bipartisan results. His opponent’s engagement in disappointing political attacks that lack any credibility, and lack of detail on how he will pay for $60 billion in new spending, continue to defy the credibility voters deserve,” Baker’s campaign spokesman Terry MacCormack said.

Gonzalez did repeat Thursday that his campaign would be rolling out more specifics on his revenue-raising tax plan “soon,” after initially indicating during the primary that he would wait until taking office to consult with the Department of Revenue and develop a plan.

The Democrat says additional funding is needed to invest in early education and infrastructure.

“I will be asking the wealthy to pay more,” he said.

And as for the idea of “Big Tent” party politics, Gonzalez said that when it comes to the U.S. Senate and Trump, the stakes are too high.

“We need a governor who will support women’s rights and LGBTQ rights and immigrants and gun control not just some of the time, but all of the time. Not reluctantly, but wholeheartedly,” he said.

Asked whether he had his own litmus test for Democrats, Gonzalez said, “I will not actively campaign for anyone who is not pro-choice.”