GOP Senate hopefuls, in Worcester, press the case against Warren, differ on Trump enthusiasm

May 16–WORCESTER — Would Massachusetts’ Republican U.S.Senate hopefuls vote for Donald Trump were the presidential election held today?

The question was asked of the three candidates at a Republican meet-and-greet Tuesday night.

They responded with varying levels of enthusiasm. The controversial Republican president is popular with party faithful but unpopular with the majority of Democratic and independent voters in Massachusetts.

John Kingston declined to say if he would vote for Mr. Trump. “I’m not going to answer hypotheticals,” said the Winchester businessman, who supported an independent anti-Trump effort in 2016.

“There’s no 2018 presidential election,” Mr. Kingston said. “There is a 2018 opportunity for me to run against Elizabeth Warren and take classic conservative values and beat the other side with them. I’ve been a conservative my entire life. I’ll work with the administration when it does good things.”

State Rep. Geoff Diehl, R-Whitman, offered a resounding yes. “Look at the success he’s having,” said Mr. Diehl, who co-chaired the Trump campaign in the Bay State in 2016.

“Massachusetts now has $809 million above what they anticipated for revenue and a lot of that can be pointed to the tax reform bill that Congress passed and the president supported,” Mr. Diehl said.

“You’re seeing success right now in North Korea that nobody anticipated. I would say Massachusetts right now is definitely benefiting from the leadership he has been providing on the economy. For me that would be a solid yes on re-electing him.”

Beth Lindstrom was more reserved in her support for President Trump. “Well, I voted for him in the last election and I would vote for him again if he was the nominee,” said the longtime GOP operative from Groton. She was asked why. “Because he’s the Republican nominee,” she said.

The three U.S. Senate candidates spoke at the event sponsored by the Worcester Republican City Committee at the PNI Club on Millbury Street. More than 100 party loyalists turned out despite rain and a tornado watch.

“Who would have thought, in the middle of a tornado, Republicans can’t find a parking space,” said the event’s organizer, Donna Colorio, chair of the Worcester Republican City Committee.

The GOP Senate hopefuls are vying to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., a favorite of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing who is seen as a potential 2020 presidential candidate and is considered a strong candidate for re-election with $15 million in her campaign coffers.

Mr. Diehl, who has campaigned in the past as a tea party populist conservative, won the endorsement of party delegates at the recent Republican State Convention in Worcester.

Ms. Lindstrom, a former executive director of the state GOP, managed Scott Brown’s winning U.S. Senate campaign in 2010. Mr. Kingston, a fundraiser and philanthropist, has poured millions of his own money into a GOP Senate run. Each received the necessary 15 percent at the recent state party convention to qualify for the primary ballot.

President Trump is unpopular in Massachusetts, which gave him the second-lowest job-approval rating — 27 percent — among the states in 2017, according to Gallup pollsters. Nationally, Mr. Trump’s job approval averaged 39 percent from late January through late April 2018, according to Gallup. However, 86 percent of Republicans nationally approved of the way Mr. Trump is handling his job, compared to 33 percent of independents and 8 percent of Democrats, in the latest Gallup survey.

Republicans are in the minority in Massachusetts, which Hillary Clinton carried by 27 points in the 2016 presidential election. In the Legislature, Democrats outnumber Republicans in the state Senate 34-6 and in the state House of Representatives 123-35. Democrats hold all state constitutional offices outside the governorship and lieutenant governorship, all nine congressional seats and both U.S. Senate seats.

Registered Democrats in the state number more than 1.5 million, while registered Republicans are fewer than 480,000.

However, the state’s more than 2.4 million unenrolled or independent voters outnumber Democrats and Republicans combined. Independents can vote in either party’s primary.

In Worcester on Tuesday, each of the three Republican Senate hopefuls explained why he or she would be the best candidate to run against Ms. Warren in the fall.

Ms. Lindstrom cited her stands on the issues, her accomplishments as a Cabinet member in the Romney administration, and her ability to reach across the aisle.

“Leaders come in all different shapes and sizes,” she said. (When) I worked for Gov. Romney, people would say, ‘Well, you don’t agree with him on (everything), how can you support him?’ I said, ‘If you want to agree with someone 100 percent, then you run for office yourself.’ ”

She said: “The momentum I’ve had outside the convention has been really telling. People have been willing to jump on the campaign, to donate.”

Mr. Diehl cited his experience as an elected official with local and state budgets. “The cliche thing to say is I’m the only one who’s been elected among my opponents here,” he said. “I’ve served in office for years and been the only one who’s actually cut taxes. That time in office has given (me) the exposure to the issues that affect the state.

“The familiarity with funding sources for the state (is) going to be important to make sure that Massachusetts has a seat at the table in Congress,” Mr. Diehl said. “I think that gives me the added advantage in this race and I think it also gives me an advantage over Sen. Warren. Right now it seems she’s focused on running for president.”

Mr. Kingston said he would appeal beyond traditional Republican audiences. “If you’re a Republican in this state you’ve got to take your values and figure out a way not to preach to the choir, but reach across lines,” he said.

“I’ve proven it my entire life: I’ve reached across racial, ethnic, political, ideological lines to problem-solve with people and get things done,” he said. “Other people in this race are used to playing in the Republican circle. I’m used to playing outside of it, being able to bring people over to our side (for) common-sense conservative solutions.”


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