It’s no endorsement of any political candidate or incumbent to say that competitive elections are healthy for democracy. That’s especially true when the office at hand is the top job in the state.
Regardless of one’s feelings about Gov. Charlie Baker or his GOP colleagues, there’s some good news in former state Rep. Geoff Diehl’s announcement on the Fourth of July of his candidacy for governor. Hopefully we’ll soon learn the identity of his opponent — if not Baker seeking a third term, then another Republican — on the 2022 ballot.
Diehl, of Whitman, served four terms in the state House, spending much of the last term on an unsuccessful challenge to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren for reelection. A loyalist of former President Donald Trump, Diehl is closely aligned with MassGOP Chairman Jim Lyons, who has publicly sparred with the centrist governor.
Deep into his second term in office, Baker is a study in political contradiction. He is a Republican in a state that elects Democrats to almost every other statewide office. He remains one of the most popular governors in the country — a distinction that survived the pandemic, for the most part — yet he is vulnerable.
That’s because the former Swampscott selectman and health insurance executive, if he decides to run for reelection, faces a primary opponent sure to marshal support of conservatives disaffected by Baker’s efforts to distance himself from Trump. That wouldn’t damage Baker in a general election; many Democrats criticize him for not being outspoken enough about the former White House occupant.
But dynamics of a primary will be different. The last three GOP primaries for governor, though they were contested, pulled fewer than half of the votes cast in the Democratic primary. Fewer ballots means staunch, far-right voters will carry more weight.
Again, Baker hasn’t said if he’s running a fourth time. (He lost in his first bid for governor, against Democratic incumbent Gov. Deval Patrick.) If Baker steps aside, one hopes we’ll soon see Diehl’s GOP opponent — Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito is said to be a potential candidate.
On the other ticket, at least three Democrats — state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, Harvard professor Danielle Allen and former state Sen. Ben Downing — have already announced their candidacies in what we hope will be a lively contest.
Any election is an opportunity for voters to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their leaders. And most any contested election is better than one settled by default, no matter how popular the incumbent.