Geoff Diehl, a Whitman Republican running for governor, on Monday named former state lawmaker Leah Cole Allen as his running mate, partnering with a registered nurse who opposes COVID-19 vaccine mandates and believes there’s “enough evidence” to support the possibility of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.
The selection of Allen, 33, further cements Diehl’s vow to be a bulwark against state and city COVID-19 rules and focus on “protecting individual freedoms” — issues that have become a centerpiece of the Donald Trump-backed conservative’s primary campaign. She also offered a measure of support for Trump’s and Diehl’s false claim that the 2020 presidential race was rigged, a belief that could appeal to GOP voters but has been largely rejected by the voters they’d need to appeal to in a general election.
Allen, 33, last served in the Legislature in 2015, resigning her seat after a 2 1/2-year stint to pursue nursing. The Danvers Republican said she is now “facing the prospect” of being fired from a hospital because she refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19, saying she wasn’t comfortable taking the shot while pregnant.
“It makes me want to get involved again,” Allen told reporters Monday outside the State House, criticizing what she called “top-down” decision-making during the pandemic. She declined to name her employer, but said if elected as lieutenant governor, she would focus on “removing the mandates so people can get back to work.”
Diehl’s selection of Allen comes roughly three weeks after his GOP primary opponent, Chris Doughty, also turned to a former state lawmaker in Kate Campanale as his running mate. While both are pitching themselves as respective tickets, governor and lieutenant governor candidates still run in separate primary elections in September.
Similar to Diehl, 52, Allen quickly built a conservative platform. A mother of two, she said she opposes abortion, as well as mask mandates in schools and for employees, arguing that requirements imposed during the COVID-19 state of emergency “eroded individual liberty.”
She also suggested that there could have been widespread fraud in the 2020 election, a bogus notion that’s been pushed by Trump and his supporters since shortly after he lost.
Diehl last fall falsely claimed that “the 2020 election was rigged,” citing what he described as audit results from three states. That included in Georgia, where three audits found no evidence of widespread fraud, and Arizona, where one actually discovered more votes for President Biden.
Asked if she agreed with Diehl, Allen pointed to investigations of potential fraud in other states, saying, “I think there was enough evidence that there could have been an issue.”
“I think that there was enough states that felt that it was [rigged], that they were investigating it. And I would like to see the outcomes of those investigations,” she said. Pressed on which states, Allen declined to say — “I don’t know off-hand” — and said she didn’t want to discuss “the national stuff.”
“I really care about what’s impacting Massachusetts right now,” she said. “I think it’s important. Perhaps we can discuss it sometime. But right now I’d like to focus on the reason why I’m running.”
Like Diehl, Allen backed a successful 2014 ballot question that eliminated a provision requiring the state gas tax be indexed to inflation. In a statement released by Diehl’s campaign Monday, she also accused “state leaders” of “trying to raise taxes” at a time of rising inflation, and said the state should seek more creative ways to return money to taxpayers.
Allen didn’t cite specific proposals, telling reporters that she was concerned about “any kind of taxes and fees that they are looking at increasing.” Legislative leaders have yet to release their budget proposals for next fiscal year, though Governor Charlie Baker has proposed $700 million in tax breaks and House leaders, while opposed to eliminating the state’s gas tax, said they are weighing their own tax break package.
Allen also charged that state officials are “trying to take away parents’ ability to choose what’s best for their kids.”
“Schools shouldn’t be teaching a curriculum based on a political agenda,” Cole’s campaign website states. She said later Monday that she believes education “is very centralized right now,” and that it boxes out parents from having a say in school curriculum.
The criticisms track with Diehl’s campaign pitch, in which he has vowed to support parents who “don’t want government taking away their freedom to make choices” about their children’s curriculum — leaning into similar arguments that helped elevate Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin in his own campaign last fall.
Whoever emerges from the Republican primary likely faces a longshot bid to succeed Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, both of whom declined to seek reelection this fall. It’s also unclear if the wider electorate is eager to roll back the vaccine mandates Diehl and Allen have railed against.
A September Boston Globe/Suffolk University poll found 72 percent of likely voters in Boston believed employers should require workers to be vaccinated. And while just 44 percent of Republicans supported the mandate, 82 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of unenrolled voters backed the requirement.
Roughly 95 percent of Massachusetts’ eligible population has received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, tied for the highest rate in the nation, according to a database maintained by The New York Times.