Former Republican State Rep. Geoff Diehl announced Sunday he's running for governor, making him the first Republican to enter the 2022 race and potentially setting the stage for a contested Republican primary next year.
Diehl, 52, a conservative who lost a bid to challenge U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren in 2018, made the announcement at a Fourth of July "Freedom Festival" in Hadley, hosted by a political action committee, the Western Massachusetts GOP Patriots.
He said he plans to focus on aiding small businesses, cutting the size of government, supporting police, improving education equity and addressing immigration. He also expressed opposition to the Transportation Climate Initiative, a multistate effort to reduce greenhouse emissions.
In a statement, Diehl also took aim at the record of Gov. Charlie Baker, a moderate Republican.
“The pandemic response of a total shut down of the economy, followed by arbitrary federal, state and local regulations only made it harder for the small businesses to stay alive, especially in the restaurant and hospitality industries," Diehl said. "Let that chapter of our state’s history remain a powerful example of what can never happen again."
Many conservatives have been hoping that Diehl would challenge Baker in next year's Republican primary, should Baker seek another term. Though Baker is considered one of the country's most popular governors, some Republicans would prefer a more conservative nominee.
Baker has not yet said whether he will seek a third term. If Baker opts out, many expect Baker's running mate, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, to seek the Republican nomination instead.
Three Democrats have also announced plans to run for governor: State Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz, Harvard professor Danielle Allen and former state Sen. Ben Downing. Another prominent Democrat, Attorney General Maura Healey, has not said whether she will enter the race.