Geoff Diehl Hoping To Bring Governing and Small Business Experience As Governor of Massachusetts

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Bill Weld, Paul Cellucci, Jane Swift, Mitt Romney, Charlie Baker, Geoff Diehl?

Since 1990, the left-leaning Commonwealth of Massachusetts has elected four Republican governors and only one Democrat. There was even an unelected acting Republican governor from 2001 to 2003, Jane Swift, meaning that since Michael Dukakis left office in January 1991, Deval Patrick has been the only Democratic governor of Massachusetts.

Now, the 52-year-old former state representative Geoff Diehl (R-Whitman) wants to be the fifth Republican governor elected and the sixth to serve in the capacity.

Diehl is no stranger to Massachusetts politics. He served as a state representative for eight years (2011 to 2019) and ran statewide for U.S. Senate in 2018; he was the Republican nominee against incumbent U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren. Diehl lost that race, but he said it was that experience that him inspired to take another shot at running for statewide office.

“I had a chance to meet people from across the state and despite the fact that I didn’t win that race, I still feel like there’s a lot of opportunity to take the feedback I got from people and marry it up with my private sector experience as well as my time in office and use that to serve people in the governor’s role,” Diehl told NewBostonPost in a telephone interview this past Friday.

The former state representative announced his run for governor at an event in Western Massachusetts on Independence Day and since then, he has laid out a few places where he has clear differences of opinion with the state’s current Republican governor, Charlie Baker, who still hasn’t announced whether or not he plans to seek a third term.

One of those issues is the Transportation and Climate Initiative. It’s a cap-and-trade scheme and proposed interstate compact that would charge a fee on carbon fuel providers. It would result in increased gas and diesel costs with estimates ranging from 5 cents per gallon to as high as 38 cents per gallon in added fuel costs.

Opposition to higher gas taxes is nothing new for Diehl. He was among the leaders of a 2014 ballot initiative that repealed the state’s automatic gas tax hikes. The Massachusetts Legislature, dominated by a Democratic supermajority, voted to index the gas tax to inflation, raising the gas tax every year without a vote. Instead, voters that year eliminated the automatic gas tax increase by approving the ballot question, 53 to 47 percent.

“I think we showed the legislature that not only is that really the wrong way to generate revenue — with a regressive tax — but I was able to show voters on the other side of the aisle,” Diehl said.

Diehl noted that more people voted to repeal the gas tax in 2014 than voted to elect Charlie Baker governor of Massachusetts. In all, 1,095,229 people voted to tank the gas tax while 1,044,573 voted for the Baker-Karyn Polito ticket. (That’s about 50,000 more, or just less than 5 percent more.)

Another major issue for Diehl is his opposition to accepting enhanced unemployment benefits from the federal government right now. The coronavirus-related unemployment benefits were designed to tide people over during an emergency. But as the economy has re-opened, the criticism from the right against the enhanced unemployment checks is that the government is paying people more money to stay home and do nothing than they would make working, which is resulting in a labor shortage that hurts small businesses.

Speaking about unemployment, Diehl said that one of his differences with Governor Baker is how he would use the billions of dollars that the federal government just gave the Commonwealth. Baker wants a two-month sales tax holiday to help businesses. Diehl wants to use the money to fill up the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund rather than charging employers for it. Diehl says that’s a better way to help small businesses in the state.

“They’re the ones who hire the majority of people in Massachusetts and they’re about to get hit by massive unemployment trust funds to restore the money that’s been used over the pandemic,” Diehl said.

If elected governor, Diehl would almost certainly enter office with Democratic supermajorities in both chambers of the Massachusetts Legislature. As it stands, Massachusetts is one of three states with a supermajority in the legislature from a party that differs from the party of the the incumbent governor. The other two are both Republican-leaning states that currently have Democratic governors:  Kansas and Kentucky.

In Massachusetts, the makeup of the legislature prevents governors from passing much of the conservative agenda, even if they were inclined to do so. However, as a former member of the legislature, Diehl said he knows how to work across the aisle.

He also says he can provide something he says the state needs more of:  the perspective of small business owners. Diehl and his wife, KathyJo Boss, own Boss Academy of Performing Arts in Hanson, which teaches dance, acting, and voice to children and adolescents, mostly girls.

“I had things I proposed that were able to get traction, but I also saw that some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle don’t understand the small business world,” Diehl said. “When they proposed the tech tax in 2013, it was repealed two weeks later when they were told by the industry leaders that those companies could move out of the state in a heartbeat.” 

As Diehl notes, in 2013 then-Governor Deval Patrick signed and later repealed the same tax. It was a 6.25 percent sales tax on computer and software services.

Some members of the legislature fail to reflect the values of their district, Diehl said. While most Massachusetts voters support Democratic politicians, Diehl says those politicians sometimes take their mandate too far. He used the defund-the-police movement as an example, as well as the push to eliminate qualified immunity for police officers in the Commonwealth.

“That’s a dangerous discussion to have because it doesn’t just impact law enforcement officers,” Diehl said. “When you talk about removing qualified immunity, you’re actually affecting first responders like EMTs and firefighters and the protection they’re receiving as they’re doing the Good Samaritan work that’s expected of them in these emergency situations.”

When it comes to abortion, Diehl said he and his family are pro-life. He said he supports the efforts of Massachusetts Republicans to get a born-alive protection question on the November 2022 ballot.

“We want to make sure those babies are taken care of and given a chance at life,” Diehl said.

He also said he doesn’t think taxpayers should be paying for other people’s abortions. On the federal level, he cited the Hyde Amendment, which historically and (as of now) currently prevents federal funds from paying for most abortions in the country. He acknowledged that (because of a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision in 1981) Medicaid pays for abortions in Massachusetts — something he opposes.

“My goal is to make sure that as governor we do our best to protect life where we can,” Diehl said. “That’s the hope going forward.”

One regulation that NewBostonPost asked Diehl about specifically is the Commonwealth’s ban on fireworks. Massachusetts is the only state in the country that bans all forms of consumer fireworks. As a result, people travel across state lines to purchase fireworks and bring them back into the Commonwealth for use. 

Diehl said he supports legalizing fireworks in Massachusetts.

“I felt like with the pandemic there was massive government overreach with businesses being shut down over arbitrary rules,” Diehl said. “I think fireworks fall into some of that category. If adults are trusted to have alcohol and other things, I feel like fireworks — while they can potentially be dangerous — where do you draw the line on a person’s ability to decide what they should and shouldn’t do?”

Another form of regulation that NewBostonPost asked Diehl about was occupational licensing. He said he wants Massachusetts to recognize military training in the trades as a legitimate form of licensing and wants to exempt military veterans who have training in a particular area from paying state licensing fees.

“The military does such a fantastic job training people in various occupations that I think that should count towards their credentials in the state,” Diehl said. “I think that would get a lot of people to work faster with less money out of their pockets.”

As for how he will combat media bias in Massachusetts — a state where many reporters have given money to Democratic political candidates, as NewBostonPost has noted on several occasions — Diehl said he has personal experience with it. He said he can’t rely on mainstream media to carry his message to the people.

“Even so, we were still able to get the third-highest vote total of any candidate running over all of the Democratic candidates for the statewide slate,” Diehl said , referring to his U.S. Senate run in 2018. “We’ve proven that our campaign has overcome that hurdle in the past and going out directly to the people and making sure they’re able to hear directly from me, the candidate, is the way we’re going to continue to get that done in the future.”

Part of getting that message out includes trying to win over people who don’t traditionally vote Republican in federal elections.

Diehl said he anticipates that urban districts could play a role in that, including places like Fall River, New Bedford, and Lawrence, where Republicans made gains in the 2020 election.

He thinks that politicians and candidates in areas that don’t typically vote Republican can help, as well, citing Fall River city councilor Chris Peckham, and Boston city council candidate Donnie Palmer, among others.

“I anticipate that a lot of great candidates are going to continue to surface when they see that the momentum for 2022 is growing and that they have a candidate for governor that wants to spread their message of individual freedom and prosperity for the future,” Diehl said. “I think we’ll continue to make gains in areas that don’t necessarily vote as strongly for Republicans.”

Additionally, Diehl said that in the November 2018 U.S. Senate general election that he lost to Warren, he performed well for a Republican in the Massachusetts Eighth Congressional District. That included winning Plymouth County (which includes some of the district) and outperforming President Donald Trump’s 2020 vote total in Norfolk County by more than seven points (37.5 percent for Diehl in Norfolk County in 2018 versus 30.5 percent for Trump in Norfolk County in 2020).

He said a statewide election focused on state issues gives him a better chance to break through with persuadable Democrats and unenrolled voters.

“Republicans in Massachusetts always fare better in gubernatorial years because the national issues aren’t on the forefront as much,” Diehl said. “People want to vote for someone who they feel is looking out for them. I think that’s why Republicans are able to win the corner office as a balance against the very liberal House and Senate supermajorities.”

“I think that shows that some of the more hardcore Democratic voters are willing to consider a Republican who is center-right and is with them on the issues that are important to families,” he added.


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