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Vulgar convention comments were ‘not appropriate,’ GOP gubernatorial candidate says, but backs claims of indoctrination in schools

Candidate Governor Geoff Diehl speaks during the the 2022 Republican State Convention in Springfield, MA on May 21, 2022.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Republican candidate for governor Geoff Diehl told reporters Monday that vulgar comments made about school curricula by a secretary of state candidate during the party’s convention Saturday were “not appropriate,” but leaned into a separate controversial claim that permeated the weekend event, which is that Democratic control in the state would lead to “indoctrination” of children in schools.

At the MassMutual Center in Springfield Rayla Campbell, the party’s candidate for secretary of state, urged Republican delegates to take an active role when it comes to what their children are learning in schools.

“I don’t think it’s nice when they’re telling your 5-year-old that he can [perform a sex act on] another 5-year-old,” she said, drawing gasps from the audience. “Do you?”

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Warning: The video below contains graphic language.

Campbell did not back up her comments with evidence, instead pointing to a pending bill in the Legislature intended to update the state’s sexual education curriculum.

“That language is not appropriate and certainly nothing that would be discussing . . . or the way we conduct ourselves in office,” Diehl said Monday of Campbell’s comments.

In her speech, Campbell also characterized Democrats as “evil,” to which Diehl demurred Monday, saying that “the language that comes out of convention can get a little hyperbolic.”

Campbell did not respond to requests for comment.

Diehl did, however, double down on the broader point Campbell was making, which is that the Democratic party has encouraged schools to teach children lessons some deem “inappropriate.”

When asked for an example, Diehl told reporters about how his daughter, a sophomore at Whitman Hanson Regional High School, who he says was required to sign a pledge to acknowledge her white privilege.

“My wife and I have done our best to try and get racism out of our household. It is the schools that are trying to tell my daughter she has racist problems,” he said. “I also think that some of the material we are seeing [taught] at young ages, kindergarten through third grade and maybe even beyond, related to sexual preference . . . well, I think it’s the parent’s right to talk to their kids about that.”

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Geoff Diehl, a former Whitman state lawmaker who’s trumpeted Trump’s false claims the 2020 election was rigged, received 71 percent of the 1,194 votescast by party delegates Saturday, winning the party’s backing for governor. Diehl, who unsuccessfully challenged Senator Elizabeth Warren for her seat in 2018, far outpaced Chris Doughty, a Wrentham business owner running for office for the first time. Still, Doughty did manage to clear the 15 percent threshold of delegate support needed to appear on the Sept. 6 ballot.

Leah Allen and Kate Campanale — Diehl and Doughty’s hand-picked running mates, respectively — vied for the party’s endorsement for lieutenant governor. Allen received 70 percent of the votes.

Also making the Republican ballot Saturday: Jay McMahon, a Buzzards Bay lawyer running for attorney general for the second consecutive cycle; Campbell, a Whitman Republican; and Anthony Amore, a second-time statewide candidate from Winchester running for state auditor. No Republican is running for state treasurer.

Matt Stout of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


Samantha J. Gross can be reached at samantha.gross@globe.com. Follow her @samanthajgross.