Geoff Diehl, a former Republican state lawmaker now running for Massachusetts governor, stood with protesters on Monday as they denounced Mayor Michelle Wu’s new requirements that people will soon have to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 before they can enter restaurants, gyms and theatres.
Diehl’s campaign released a photo showing him in a crowd rallying against the new rules at City Hall.
“These mandates are clear violations of the civil rights of anyone who lives in, works in, or travels to the city, and will make it even more difficult for Boston’s economy to recover from the pandemic,” Diehl said in a statement. “While I openly acknowledge and share concern over rising case counts in Massachusetts, infringing on citizens’ right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is never an acceptable solution.”
Diehl, whose candidacy has been endorsed by former president Donald Trump, has pitched himself as a business-friendly conservative promising to make “individual rights and liberty a cornerstone of his campaign.”
He has regularly criticized Governor Charlie Baker’s decision to require tens of thousands of state employees to be vaccinated and promised, if elected in 2022, to rehire anyone who was fired for refusing to comply with the mandate.
In addition to new vaccine rules for customers of certain businesses, Wu said the city will begin requiring vaccination of all city employees, eliminating the option for city workers to be regularly tested instead of being vaccinated. That would align the city with Baker’s mandate for executive branch workers.
Baker has said he has no plans to implement similar requirements statewide, citing the state’s status as a national leader in vaccination rates. Asked about Wu’s announcement, a Baker spokesman said his administration “supports local officials’ efforts to respond to the pandemic,” and that it has been developing a voluntary digital vaccine card with other states.
Baker and Diehl had long been on a trajectory toward a potential primary. Diehl, who mounted an unsuccessful challenge to US Senator Elizabeth Warren in 2018, announced on the Fourth of July that he was running for governor, making him the first Republican to enter the race.
Trump endorsed him in October, lashing out at Baker as a “RINO” — Republican in name only — “who has done nothing for the Republican Party.”
But Baker announced this month he would not seek a third term, a decision he said was “not at all” influenced by the presence of a Trump-backed candidate in the race.