By Tracy F. Seelye and James Bentley
Proclaiming it “our moment” and staking out the theme that U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren “has let us down,” state Rep. Geoffrey Diehl greeted supporters at the Whitman VFW Tuesday night to bask in his Republican primary win.
His margin of victory was 54.8 percent of the vote compared to 27 percent for John Kingston and 18.1 percent for Beth Lindstrom.
“While Warren has spent the last six years building a national political profile for herself, I’ve been fighting for you, and most importantly, listening to you,” Diehl said after greeting supporters with hugs as the song “This is My House,” by Flo Rida.
He is casting Warren as an out-of-touch person using Massachusetts as a stepping-stone while ignoring the benefit of the GOP tax cut, the need for immigration control and support for law enforcement, and failing her constituents on the opioid crisis.
“I will make the fight against opioid addiction a priority,” Diehl said. “We’re losing about 2,000 people to opioid-related overdoses here in Massachusetts each year. What has Senator Warren done about it? Nothing.”
He also took the opportunity to again underscore that the ballot initiative he backed to repeal automatic gas tax hikes a few years ago has saved Massachusetts residents $2 billion.
In Whitman, his hometown, voters gave Diehl 1,361, according to unofficial tallies at the close of polls with Kingston receiving 76 and Lindstrom 65 of the 25.3 percent of 10,684 registered voters casting ballots. In Hanson, with 21 percent of the town’s voters casting ballots, Diehl had 789 votes to 107 for Kingston and 57 for Lindstrom. Meanwhile, the race to fill the state representative seat Diehl is vacating will be an all-Abington contest as former Selectman Alex Bezanson staved off a challenge from Whitman union advocate Kevin Higgins to face Plymouth County DA’s office victim advocate Alyson Sullivan for the Nov. 6 general election.
“I’m going to concentrate on being a state representative, that’s all I want to do and I’m not sure any of my (Republican) opponents can say that,” Bezanson told supporters at J.R. Ryan’s Sports Bar in Abington after claiming victory.
“I am the only candidate in this race that is a working-class candidate, the only candidate who’s going to go to Beacon Hill every single day full time to be your state representative. … I’m not going to go to law school, I’m not going to use this as a stepping stone. I’ll be your full-time state representative.”
Bezanson and Higgins each carried their hometowns, with Abington giving Bezanson 939 votes to Higgins’ 369 — and Whitman supporting Higgins with 735 votes to Bezanson’s 408 — before East Bridgewater decided the matter with 340 votes for Bezanson and 214 for Higgins.
“My hometown really showed up for me and I’m really proud,” Higgins said Wednesday morning, vowing to stay involved in politics in the future.
“I was thrilled. Obviously we spend a lot of time on this campaign,” Bezanson said. “It was a tough race, it really was, but I think now’s the time to join forces, unite the party, and take this seat back to a Democrat.”
Democrats are holding a unity breakfast on Sunday, Sept. 7 at the Post 22 American Legion in Whitman hosted by state Sen. Michael Brady, D-Brockton. He said the opioid epidemic, funding for public education and taxation remain issues to watch in the run-up to November.
“Until we have a progressive graduated income tax rate, we’re not going to be able to make the significant investments in our public schools and our public services that we need to,” Higgins said. “The other important piece to that is, if we don’t fix the regressive personal income tax in Massachusetts, then our property taxes are going to continue to rise.”
Defeated Republican Greg Eaton also vowed unity in the effort to keep the seat in his party, as he attended Diehl’s victory party later that evening.
“It was not close,” he said of his own result outside of Whitman. “I am absolutely backing Alyson. She’s a good Republican, she comes from a good family and she stands for what we stand for in this party.”
Sullivan carried all three towns — 742 to 629 for Eaton in his hometown of Whitman, 1,170 to Eaton’s 151 in her hometown of Abington and 528 to 271 for Eaton in East Bridgewater. Bezanson and Higgins had both knocked on a lot of doors in their race.
“I am honored and humbled to have received the trust, confidence and support from so many people in Abington, East Bridgewater and Whitman,” Sullivan stated Wednesday. “Over these next two months, I will build upon that support, as I continue to share my goals of working with others to tackle the opioid crisis, advocating for local aid and reforming our school aid formula, and building the economy, as I seek to be the new voice for the people of Abington, East Bridgewater and Whitman.
“We contacted 1,200 people in the district that either switched to Democrat or registered as Democrat since 2016,” Bezanson said. “That’s a lot of people in this district.”
He touted his experience as the difference.
Higgins agreed he needed a smaller margin in Abington to take the district as East Bridgewater was so close.
“I’m going to concentrate on being a state representative, that’s all I want to do and I’m not sure any of my (Republican) opponents can say that,” he said before the result of the Republican Primary.
Whitman Selectman Brian Bezanson, no relation to Alex Bezanson, said Dr. Scott Lively’s showing in Whitman’s primary voting vs. Gov. Charlie Baker shows the strength of conservatism in the town. Lively garnered 499 votes in Whitman and 347 in Hanson to Baker’s 921 in Whitman and 598 in Hanson.
“Everybody wrote him off to be just a flash in the pan, but he’s had some support, and I think that should send a message to Gov. Baker that there is a conservative wing of the Republican Party and he needs to listen to them,” Brian Bezanson said. In the state representative GOP primary he said both candidates were “decent candidates that could do a good job and I think now the party will unite.”
Both Brian Bezanson and Selectman Randy LaMattina, a Democrat, expressed a degree of surprise at Higgins’ strong showing in Whitman.