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Wrentham Republican said to be mulling race for governor

Cars passed by the Massachusetts State House in this file photo.EPA

Chris Doughty, a Wrentham Republican, businessman, and investor, is seriously considering a run for Massachusetts governor, according to three people who’ve spoken with him, potentially expanding the sparse GOP field left by Governor Charlie Baker’s decision not to seek reelection.

Doughty, 59, has been making calls to party officials and operatives about a potential campaign built, in part, on his experience in the manufacturing world. Doughty is president of Wrentham’s Capstan Atlantic, which produces gears and other metal parts as the East Coast manufacturing hub for the California-based Capstan Inc.

An alum of BYU and Harvard Business School, Doughty has not run for office before, and is not a regular GOP donor. He gave $1,000 to one-time Wrentham resident Scott Brown, over Brown’s two US Senate campaigns, and $250 to Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign. On the state level, he’s made just one contribution: a $1,000 donation in December to state Representative Shawn Dooley, a Wrentham Republican who made a bid for state party chairman last year against Jim Lyons, the Donald Trump-aligned incumbent.

But Doughty also has personal wealth to help build a campaign should he decide to run, according to officials who’ve spoken with him.

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“He has the resources to run the type of race needed to win in Massachusetts,” said one person with whom Doughty has discussed a potential campaign. “He has very strong feelings about the need to support blue-collar jobs and manufacturing initiatives. If he decides to run, he will have a compelling message.”

Efforts to reach Doughty at his office Friday were not successful.

Baker said last month he is not running for a third consecutive term, and his lieutenant governor, Karyn Polito — long viewed as a potential successor within the party — said she, too, would not seek the governor’s office this year.

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The announcements meant Geoff Diehl, a Trump-endorsed conservative and former state Senate and US Senate candidate, has been the only Republican in the race.

Among Democrats, state Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz, and Harvard professor Danielle Allen launched campaigns last year, though Attorney General Maura Healey could soon join the field as a well-funded candidate who’s twice been elected statewide.

Diehl, a former state lawmaker, has pitched himself as a business-friendly conservative. He has close ties to Massachusetts Republican Party leadership and is well-known among grassroots GOP activists, giving him an advantage in a statewide primary. He unsuccessfully challenged Senator Elizabeth Warren in 2018 after emerging from a three-way GOP primary that included John Kingston, another wealthy businessman who was running for office for the first time.

As a gubernatorial candidate, Diehl has railed against COVID-19 vaccine mandates at the state and local level, and promised to be a voice for parents he says are being “shut out of their children’s education” — replicating a campaign pitch Glenn Youngkin repeatedly touted before winning the Virginia governor’s race in November.

Trump endorsed Diehl in October, calling him a “true patriot” a day after Diehl falsely claimed that “the 2020 election was rigged,” echoing Trump’s baseless assertions of widespread voter fraud.

But with Baker’s exit, moderate Republicans and others within the party dubious about Diehl’s ability to win a general election have been eager to find an alternative, though to date few potential options have emerged.

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Doughty was motivated to weigh a run, in part, because there wasn’t a candidate offering a “meat and potatoes” message, according to another person he spoke with. “What he saw was that Geoff had more of an extreme message and was basically running a partisan campaign,” the person said.

It’s unclear if Doughty would specifically pitch himself as a more moderate option to Diehl, though one GOP operative said he would likely wear that label regardless if he runs.

“I don’t think anyone is going to be to the right of Geoff,” the operative said.


Matt Stout can be reached at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.