Who’s Geoff Diehl? A Listicle

The Herald’s saying that State Representative Geoff Diehl will challenge Elizabeth Warren next year. So what do we know?

  • He’s a small business owner from Whitman who was first elected to the House in 2010.
  • In 2013, he filed an amendment to a House bill to benefit veterans through a property tax exemption and a “Support Our Veterans” license plate program. His amendment would have required that all persons seeking state housing assistance provide their social security numbers. When his amendment was ruled out of order because it did not pertain to the primary subject of the bill, he and allies requested a roll call vote on that parliamentary ruling. The result, a 126-29 vote upholding the ruling, created the scandalous (if entirely specious) impression that 126 members of the House had voted to give priority for state housing assistance to undocumented immigrants over veterans. That roll call vote became the centerpiece of a flyer distributed in 20 legislative districts by the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance and its sister PAC, Jobs First Massachusetts, targeting Democratic incumbents in 2014. The campaign had little success.
  • Also in 2014, after the Legislature increased the gas tax from 21 to 24 cents per gallon and tied future increases to the consumer price index, he played a prominent role in the successful ballot campaign to repeal that indexing. The repeal has resulted in a (greater) shortfall in the state’s transportation funding.
  • In 2015, he and other conservative legislators joined with other, more progressive groups to oppose taxpayer funding for the Olympics. Later that year, he lost the election for an open State Senate seat (the incumbent, Thomas Kennedy, had passed away in June) to State Representative Michael Brady.
  • He was the first state lawmaker to endorse Donald Trump for President, in February of last year. And he stood by his candidate through every controversy, even Trump’s disparagement of federal judge Gonzalo Curiel, when others grew faint of heart.
  • His legislative priorities for this session include a bill to give taxpayers the option to direct the state not to use any of their income tax payments to pay for abortion services. It requires the Revenue Department to calculate the amount of state money used to pay for abortion services as a percentage of the state’s General Fund, to apply that percentage to the liability of each taxpayer electing the option and to set those amounts aside in a special fund.

Honoring Veterans (By Accusing Others of Dishonoring Them)

(Update 11/5: Republican candidate Geoff Diehl lost his Senate race to Democrat Michael Brady. The House passed the Stolen Valor bill on Wednesday without any attempts by House members to introduce anti-immigrant amendments. The House also passed bills to give Purple Heart recipients free access to state parks and to impose a fine for the removing of commemorative flag holders from graves of veterans and police and fire personnel. Unless the electoral strategy of Mass. Fiscal, Jobs First and their allies has changed significantly, I’d guess their efforts to secure roll call votes on immigrant-related measures will continue, in as misleading a way as necessary.)

Veterans’ Day being next Wednesday, and our Legislature being fond of honoring those who have served our country, it’s expected that tomorrow the House of Representatives will take up the “Stolen Valor” bill, which would make it a crime to claim, falsely, that you have won a military decoration like a Silver Star or a Purple Heart. (It seems that the problem of lying about military service — whether for emotional or financial gain — is disappointingly prevalent.)

The last time the House of Representatives commemorated Veterans’ Day through legislative action, two years ago, great controversy ensued. Back then, the House was getting ready to pass a bill honoring veterans by, for example, establishing a “Support Our Veterans” license plate program and by granting a property tax exemption for certain disabled armed forces members, when GOP Representative Geoff Diehl of Whitman (who, come tomorrow, may or may not be Senator-elect Geoff Diehl) offered an amendment to require that anyone seeking state housing assistance provide a social security number.

The purpose of this amendment, its backers claimed, was to ensure that non-citizens be prevented from securing housing aid ahead of, and therefore at the expense of, veterans. Whether this amendment was merely a solution in search of a problem was a question that its champions were — and remain — deeply uninterested in. Their only point was to fashion an occasion in which it could be claimed, however implausibly, that members voting against the amendment were dishonoring veterans.

Because the Diehl amendment had nothing whatsoever to do with the subject of the bill — veterans — it was ruled out of order. However, the amendment’s backers, undaunted in their quest for a recorded vote, called for a vote on the ruling that the amendment was out of order. The result, a 126-29 vote in support of the ruling, gave them what they wanted — the scandalous (if entirely specious) news that 126 members of the House had voted to give priority for state housing assistance to undocumented immigrants over veterans. The vote was the centerpiece of a flyer distributed in 20 legislative districts the next year by the Mass. Fiscal Alliance and its sister PAC, Jobs First Massachusetts, who were targeting Democratic incumbents in 2014, and who, as it happens, are busy right now supporting Representative Diehl in his campaign for the State Senate.

So stay tuned tomorrow to see if the effort by the House to honor veterans by passing the Stolen Valor bill includes an effort by some of its members to accuse others of dishonoring them.

Charlie Baker’s New Populist Message: Will Mass GOP Lawmakers Help Get the Word Out

Charlie Baker is in a really big hurry to spread the word about his new populist message. He wants to talk about “the sharp divisions between the wealthiest and those most in need, between those with access to high-quality education and those stuck in failing schools.” (He especially wants to talk about income inequality because other people want to talk about his ambiguous relationship with a venture capital firm where he may or may not be employed. But never mind that.)

Here at hesterprynne dot net, income inequality is a big topic and we offer help to anybody who, like Charlie, says that here in Massachusetts we have two economies, two educational systems, and two kinds of communities. So let’s get started.

Topic one: every campaign understands the importance of picking effective surrogates to reinforce the message. And let’s face it — what Charlie is proposing these days is not exactly familiar territory for the Mass GOP. So here’s a thought: why not turn that very liability into an asset by showcasing Charlie’s persuasiveness with those who have in the past advocated different points of view? I’m thinking of a series of conversion stories — like so many St. Paul’s on the road to Damascus.

First up, State Representative Geoff Diehl (R-Whitman):

Before I talked to Charlie I was utterly opposed to any increase in the minimum wage. In fact, I even filed an amendment to lower the state’s minimum wage to the federal level of $7.25. You’d have thought that every last one of my constituents ran a restaurant or something. But now I totally get that people are struggling to get by on very low wages and I’m entirely comfortable with raising the minimum wage to $10.50. Thanks, Charlie!

Next, State Representative Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton):

Before I talked to Charlie, I was completely unaware that income inequality was an issue. Heck, I even filed bills to eliminate the estate tax in Massachusetts. That tax generates over $200 million in revenue per year, even though it affects only about 1000 of the wealthiest estates. Now I get that what I was proposing was a massive transfer of wealth to the already wealthy and that we should be reducing income inequality instead of increasing it. Thanks, Charlie!

And finally, State Representative Jim Lyons (R-Andover)

Before I talked to Charlie, I was totally unconcerned about the children who are stuck in failing schools in our state. In fact, I regularly complained about the “yawning gap” between the large amount of money the state gives to the Lawrence schools (which are very poor) as compared to the schools in my district (which are not). Especially when you throw in my propensity for invoking ethnicity and immigration status at every turn, my comments about Lawrence might sound downright mean-spirited. But, thanks to Charlie, now I get it — equality of opportunity for all!

Aren’t those testimonials compelling? And there are 25 more State Representatives with stories just like them. That’s looking like some real party unity.