BOSTON (AP) — Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Geoff Diehl, a former Republican state representative, for governor of Massachusetts in 2022.
The state’s current governor — fellow Republican Charlie Baker — hasn’t yet said if he plans to seek a third term.
In a statement released Tuesday, Trump called Diehl “a true patriot," while bashing Baker, calling him a “RINO” — or Republican In Name Only — who has done nothing for the Republican Party.
“Geoff is strong on Crime, Election Integrity, our now under siege Southern Border, loves our Military, and has a big focus on taking care of our Vets,” Trump wrote.
Trump spent much of the email attacking Baker.
“Baker is bad on crime, disrespects our police, does nothing for our Veterans, has totally botched the Vaccination rollout, presided over the collapse of the MBTA, and has seen crime go to record levels," Trump wrote.
“His ‘green climate’ views are fresh out of the AOC playbook,” Trump added, a reference to Democratic U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
Massachusetts has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country.
During a stop in Salem on Wednesday, Baker said “in some respects I’m not surprised, for a whole bunch of reasons” by Trump's announcement, but said he's focused on the needs of Massachusetts, beginning with the ongoing pandemic.
“The bottom line is I’m really focused on COVID, I’m focused on getting people back to work, I’m focused on making sure that kids have the opportunity to go to school in person this year and trying to get us back to what I would describe as normal as fast as possible," Baker said.
While Baker has remained largely popular in the Democratic-leaning state throughout the pandemic, the endorsement by Trump could highlight already existing frictions between more moderate and more conservative members of the state Republican Party.
Some conservative Massachusetts Republicans have been frustrated with Baker for not taking a harder line while in office.
There has been little love lost between Baker and Trump in recent years.
Baker has been critical of Trump and announced during the 2016 election that he would not vote for Trump. Baker also said he refused to vote for Trump in the 2020 election.
Baker's efforts to distance himself from Trump haven't seemed to hurt him politically in a state that overwhelmingly rejected Trump in both elections.
Diehl was the Republican nominee for US Senate in 2018 and lost to Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren. He also served as co-chair for Trump’s Massachusetts 2016 presidential campaign.
Baker, who has said he’s still discussing the possibility of a run for a third term with his family, raised more than $173,300 in campaign funds in September.
Three top Democratic candidates for governor include Harvard professor Danielle Allen, state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz and former state Sen. Ben Downing.