One way Democrats and Republicans make sure they remain political gatekeepers, here and everywhere, is by keeping a firm grasp on whose name gets on the ballot, particularly for a statewide election. The process is exclusionary by design. Cracking it even a hair can be counted as a victory for openness in politics, regardless of who's doing the prying.
So it goes with Geoff Diehl, who would have the state Republican Party lower the threshold of support needed at its convention for candidates to get on a primary ballot. As things now stand, an aspiring GOP candidate needs at least 15% of the convention’s support to make the statewide primary ballot. Diehl, a former state lawmaker said to be weighing a run for governor, wants the state GOP Committee to lower the threshold to 10%.
Don’t think for a minute Diehl is awash with some great feeling for openness in democracy. Lowering the bar helps assure the onetime U.S. Senate candidate — he managed 36% of the vote in a loss to Sen. Elizabeth Warren in 2018 — can actually put his name on the GOP ballot for the gubernatorial primary. Presuming a widely popular Gov. Charlie Baker runs for reelection, getting 15% of the convention vote is by no means a layup for Diehl.
And it probably explains why state GOP Chairman Jim Lyons, the staunch conservative who has scrapped with the centrist Baker, is supportive of the idea. Lyons, who doubtless wants to see a primary challenge for Baker, tells State House News Service, “I’m all for getting people involved in a Republican primary and the Republican Party, and I definitely think this encourages people to participate in the process.”
Well, we can agree on that much: The more people who get involved, the better.
And that doesn’t just go for Republicans. As the News Service points out, the same 15% threshold on the Democrats' side kept Juliette Kayyem, a former state and federal Homeland Security official, out of the running when former state Attorney General Martha Coakley was locking up the party’s nomination for governor in 2014. Not to say we would have endorsed Kayyem, but she would have made a strong candidate.
Nor is any of this to say we’re eager for a campaign by Diehl. But his pitch, to make it easier for would-be candidates to put their name on the ballot in one of the major parties’ primaries, would improve our state’s politics.
The two major parties are set in their ways, and ideas. More good candidates with fresh perspectives can make our elections livelier, more interesting and more productive.