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With just days before the primary, Massachusetts governor candidates dig in

Geoff Diehl, Republican candidate for governor, campaigns in East Bridgewater. (Anthony Brooks/WBUR)
Geoff Diehl, Republican candidate for governor, campaigns in East Bridgewater. (Anthony Brooks/WBUR)

Donald Trump has inserted himself in the Massachusetts governor’s race, throwing his weight behind Republican Geoff Diehl. The former president will be in the state virtually on Monday, the day before the primary election as part of a “tele-rally” in support of Diehl.

On Thursday, Diehl greeted voters — and a small herd of alpacas — at farm in East Bridgewater. In the final days before Tuesday’s primary, Diehl is pushing his conservative message: He wants to give part of the state’s budget surplus to tax payers. He opposes vaccine mandates. And he’s campaigning against critical race theory as part of a push to make school boards more responsive to conservatives.

He’s also touting Trump’s support.

“I’m not running away from that,” he said. “I think he did deliver and gave us — even in Massachusetts — some really good economic times. So I think his support of me just reaffirms to Republicans that he sees me as the best solution for the state for the future.”

Trump’s endorsement may play well with the small Republican base, but it is unlikely to help Diehl win in November in a state that has voted against Trump by a two to one margin — twice. That’s why his Republican primary opponent, businessman Chris Doughty, argues that he is the better choice to take on Democrat Maura Healey.

“There’s a large group of citizens, which I call ‘the exhausted middle,'” Doughty told WBUR on Wednesday. “They just don’t want the extremism on the right that Geoff represents and they don’t want the extremism on the left that Maura [Healey] represents.”

A Republican ticket: Chris Doughty, candidate for Governor and Kate Campanale, candidate for Lt. Governor. (Anthony Brooks/WBUR)

Doughty says his campaign is aimed at all voters, including moderate Republicans and Democrats as well as un-enrolled voters. Those so-called independents, the largest share of the state’s voters, could hold the key for Doughty’s long-shot campaign, which has been trailing Diehl in the polls. According to Secretary of State Bill Galvin, a high number of independents have requested Republican ballots, which could help Doughty. Meanwhile, The Boston Globe endorsed him in the Republican primary, urging “reasonable conservatives” to back him; and conservative talk show host Howie Carr is telling his listeners to support Doughty.

For his part, Doughty says that as a “pragmatic Republican” with a background in business, he fits the mold of Charlie Baker, Mitt Romney, Bill Weld and other recent Republican governors, who he says were “fiscally responsible,” while offering “balance to a very progressive legislature.”

While Doughty says Diehl is too tied to Trump, Diehl responds that Doughty should explain his vote for Hilary Clinton in 2016.

As the the Republicans trade jabs, Attorney General Maura Healey is the lone Democrat campaigning, and is heavily favored to win in November. On Thursday in Brockton, Healey met with community college presidents and talked about the challenges she is ready to take on, including a shortage of housing, the crisis in public transit, and the high cost of living that is squeezing family budgets across the state.

“We’ve got work to do, and I will be a governor focused intently on that,” she said.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in the WBUR studios January 18, 2018 (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Asked about Trump’s scheduled virtual appearance in support of Diehl, Healey, who has sued the Trump administration dozens of times, said the lines in the race for governor are crystal clear.

“By having Donald Trump come and speak, I think that says it all,” Healey said. “I don’t think that’s where voters are at in Massachusetts.”

Healey, Diehl and Doughty all have busy weekends of campaigning ahead as they sprint toward the primary on Tuesday.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2022 WBUR. To see more, visit WBUR.

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