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Diehl, short on campaign cash, opts for public financing; only gubernatorial candidate to do so

Republican Geoff Diehl, a candidate for governor, doesn't have much money in his campaign account.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Republican Geoff Diehl, the former lawmaker who has struggled to raise cash in his bid for Massachusetts governor, opted into the state’s campaign financing program, state officials said Wednesday, making him eligible to tap into hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funds.

Diehl is one of five statewide candidates but the only gubernatorial hopeful to join the program, which offers public funds to candidates in return for agreeing to limits on spending. The money comes from taxpayers who voluntarily divert $1 to the program from the state income taxes they owe.

The state Office of Campaign and Political Finance said Wednesday there is roughly $1 million available, which would be evenly split between the primary and general election. Should Diehl hit a certain threshold, only his campaign would receive public funds for the primary, with more available should he advance past the Sept. 6 vote against fellow Republican, Chris Doughty.

Leah Allen, a lieutenant governor candidate and Diehl’s running mate, also opted into the program, as did Tami Gouveia, a Democrat running for lieutenant governor. Jay McMahon, the only Republican running for attorney general, and Quentin Palfrey, one of three Democratic attorney general candidates, also are participating.

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Under the program’s rules, every gubernatorial candidate who opts in is eligible for up to $750,000 during the primary and again ahead of November’s general election. They also have to agree to limit their spending to $1.5 million in each of those periods, though those limits can be flexible.

For example, if Doughty spends above $1.5 million in the primary, Diehl would be then capped on spending what his opponent did.

A spokeswoman for Diehl did not respond to request for comment Wednesday. The Whitman Republican, who has been endorsed by former president Donald Trump and state party activists, has pitched himself as a conservative check on the Democratic legislature, promising to “bring fiscal responsibility back” and lessen the burden on taxpayers.

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He’s also struggled to pull in donations. Diehl ended May with $55,359 in his campaign account, and has raised just $373,000 since the start of the year, the lowest amount of any gubernatorial candidate. (For comparison, during Governor Charlie Baker’s successful 2014 campaign, he began that June with $881,184 in cash on hand and had raised $1.27 million during the first five months of the year.)

Doughty, a Wrentham businessman, has largely self-funded his first run for office. He has so far poured $1.08 million of his own money into his campaign, including $496,000 in the days after last month’s state GOP convention where he qualified for the ballot. He had nearly $883,000 in his account to close last month.

Among Democratic candidates, Attorney General Maura Healey had $5.2 million in her account, while state Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz had $321,000.

A spokeswoman for Chang-Díaz — who raised $63,000 in May, her lowest monthly haul since November —did not immediately respond to a question of whether the Jamaica Plain Democrat considered opting in for public financing.

Four years ago, both Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Jay Gonzalez and Robert Massie, participated in the program, ultimately receiving $1.1 million. Gonzalez won the primary but lost by more than 30 points in November to Baker, who did not participate.


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