By Stephanie Ebbert, Boston Globe Staff
Chris Doughty, a Republican businessman from Wrentham, plans to announce that he’s running for governor on Wednesday, joining a field of candidates vying to succeed Governor Charlie Baker.
A self-described moderate, Doughty will be competing for his party’s nomination against Geoff Diehl, a conservative former state lawmaker who has been endorsed by former president Donald Trump.
“When I saw that Governor Baker wasn’t getting back in and I didn’t see any other moderate Republicans, my wife said, ‘Hey, quit complaining about it. Take a courage pill and step out on the stage,’ ” Doughty joked.
The president of Capstan Atlantic, a gear manufacturer in Waltham, Doughty describes himself as a fiscal conservative who will build economic expansion and prosperity, and address affordability in Massachusetts, in part by working to rein in government regulations.
“If the voters elect me, they will have a governor of jobs and the economy,” he said in an interview.
Doughty said he will launch his campaign using $500,000 of his own money as “seed capital” and he released a campaign video that introduces him to voters.
This will be the first political campaign for Doughty, 59, a father of six and grandfather of four, but his profile bears echoes of past Massachusetts Republicans. He lives in Wrentham, the political launching pad for former senator Scott Brown, and like former governor Mitt Romney is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and a graduate of both Brigham Young University and Harvard Business School.
In declaring his candidacy, he enters the fray of the Massachusetts Republican Party, whose leader, Jim Lyons, has regularly sparred with Baker and embraced Trump’s more extreme views.
Though Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly rejected Trump, and Baker often denounced him, the apparatus of the state’s Republican Party has molded itself around Trump.
Diehl is a conservative firebrand who unsuccessfully challenged Senator Elizabeth Warren in 2018. In October, the day after he began espousing Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election was rigged against him, Diehl won the former president’s endorsement.
Asked how he would appeal to the opposite wing of the party, Doughty said he would be himself.
“To be honest, genuine, compassionate, and willing to listen, not being dogmatic and unkind,” he said. “I think I’ll just represent myself, how I really am.”
Where Doughty finds common ground with conservatives, however, is on abortion. He said he leans against abortion rights, while understanding they are protected in Massachusetts. In late 2020, lawmakers codified abortion rights into state law, anticipating a change under the Supreme Court, which is weighing a challenge to Roe v. Wade.
He said he supports exceptions for abortion in cases of rape and incest but generally disapproves of abortion after “a fetus can feel pain.”
“You’ll get a sense that I’m not really an activist,” he said, saying he brings a business-minded perspective to political issues.
Doughty said he voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016. While he voted for Trump in 2020, agreeing with his position on trade practices with China, he dismissed Trump’s claims that the election was rigged against him.
“No. Joe Biden’s the legitimate president,” Doughty said.
On the Democratic side, three candidates have announced bids for the governor’s office, Attorney General Maura Healey, state Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz, and Harvard professor Danielle Allen.
Doughty said he intends to appeal to voters’ sense of balance; Massachusetts voters often choose a Republican governor to offset the state’s heavily Democratic Legislature.
Republicans are dramatically outnumbered in Massachusetts. Fewer than 10 percent of voters now identify as Republican, state data show. The majority of voters, 57 percent, are “unenrolled,” a designation that allows them to vote in either party’s primary, but as of last year, nearly 32 percent were registered as Democrats.
The primary elections will take place in September.