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LG hopeful Campanale explains why “Massachusetts First” isn’t like “America First,” responds to allegations of right-wing extremism

Kate Campanale
Kate Campanale

Last week, Republican Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Chris Doughty announced former state representative Kate Campanale as his running mate.

Campanale was the first woman to represent the 17th Worcester District, where she served from 2015 to 2018. Her lieutenant governor candidacy was immediately met with condemnation from the Democratic Governors Association, which described her as a right-wing extremist and highlighted her past stances against banning the widely condemned practice of conversion therapy and voting against paid sick leave, among others.

Doughty and Campanale frame themselves as moderates in the primary against former state Representative Geoff Diehl. Diehl has been endorsed by former President Trump and says retiring two-term Republican Governor Charlie Baker lacks conservatism.

Campanale spoke with WAMC.

CAMPANALE: I'm running as a as a team with Chris Doughty for governor. And I think that's what this is for us. It's a team. Chris and I complement each other perfectly. He has a tremendous experience and success in business and employment, knowing how government can hurt employers and employees with burdening regulation. And I on the other hand bring experience from the legislative side, how to navigate Beacon Hill. So I think we both bring different experiences. So together as a team, we can we can tackle the quality of life here in Massachusetts.

WAMC: Walk me through your vision for Massachusetts. What are the key policies that constitute your platform heading into this election?

Sure. You know, Chris and I are looking at Massachusetts. We want to improve the quality of life here. And I think in many ways that means getting back to the basics. It's the affordability issue that we're seeing around the state. It's making sure that our kids get great public education. And it's making sure that our cities and towns across the state get the funding that they need to provide those vital services, including public safety.

So let's unpack that a little bit. From your vantage point, what barriers are in place right now that are preventing that quality of life? And what kind of policies do you feel like differentiate you and campaign from the competition?

Sure, well, you know, going to affordability, I think we can all feel that right now, you know, from gas prices to oil prices to heat your car, from the price of rent and housing. You know, there was a recent study put out by Purdue that said that the minimum salary in Massachusetts is close to $140,000 just to be happy. You know, that's a phenomenal amount of money, and the cost of living here in Massachusetts, it's about 33% higher than the national average. So these are things that that we need to look at. And I think, starting from affordability, as I said, from the price of electricity, of gas, of just these necessities here and what we can do about that, here in Massachusetts. I think we have opportunities to try to become a little more independent, from revisiting talks about getting hydroelectric down from Canada that could help us. You know, let's take a look at the gas tax right now, and how that's affecting us. As we speak, it's going up every day.

So I'm interested, Kate, can you unpack for me your thoughts on the state of the Massachusetts Republican Party? You know, I was at the convention a few years ago when Mr. Baker was last nominated to run, and I certainly saw a party in the midst of an intense internal conversation about its direction. A lot of folks really passionate about Donald Trump, President Donald Trump, a lot of folks who seem to have pretty burning criticisms of Charlie Baker- Certainly, Geoff Diehl, another declared Republican candidate, is very much a long-running opponent of Charlie Baker. Where do you see you and Chris's campaign in that context within the party as that conversation continues on the campaign trail?

Sure. You know, Chris and I- So many people like to throw labels, you know. You're not conservative enough. You're not liberal. You're moderate. And we get this from every side. And we really want to focus on putting Massachusetts first. We're about unity. You know, there's so much divisiveness, as I said, from coming from every direction. You see on the Republican side that there's fighting over, you know, how Republican are you, and being moderate is looked at, can be looked at in a bad connotation. And from my view of what's going on on the left, you know, people seem to be falling over each other to become, you know, who's the most progressive. So I think Chris and I are really focused on, you know, not the national issues, not the party issues, but what we can really bring to Massachusetts and uniting Mass.

When it comes to that conversation around what constitutes conservative or progressive, the Democratic Governors Association put out a piece last week with the announcement of your candidacy, examining some of the past stances you've taken and describing you as extreme in their press release. So, I wanted to give you the opportunity to respond to some of the things that they drew attention to. I'm interested in your 2018 vote- You are one of 14 members of the Massachusetts House who voted against a ban on conversion therapy in the state. Some would consider that to be a stance that is outside of the mainstream. Can you explain to me why you made that vote at the time?

Sure. Well, thank you for giving me an opportunity to respond. First, I think it is a compliment that, you know, day one out of the gate of my announcement running for lieutenant governor that the Democratic National Governors Association came out attacking me. I think that shows the momentum that Chris and I have. So, but going to that vote on conversion therapy, you know, this is this is a vote that I saw is not letting therapists do their job. You know, when we think of going to therapy and getting therapy, getting help, you're there to establish your relationship with your therapist. You want them to ask you questions, to dig deep. You want them to challenge you on things. That's how you question yourself and you get, you can get to some answers. And I think this bill stopped and prevented therapists from doing their job. They weren't able to, they're not able to ask questions. They're only supposed to agree with you and support you, which I think is the opposite of what therapy is about.

When it comes to conversion therapy, as relates to the LGBTQ+ community, there seems to be a lot of widespread agreement that there are dangers or a lot of well-founded criticisms of that specific practice. I'm interested- It seems like that law was aimed more that very specific function as opposed to the general experience of going to therapy. Other states, like California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware- I mean, there's a lot of states that have taken action against this. Do you feel like that practice- It sort of sounds like you're conflating that part and parcel with general therapy. Do you see a distinction between the two practices?

Um, I do think that people should get the help they need. And if, if that's, you know, I think that's what therapy is about. Are we talking about- if you can be a little more specific about what you're trying to get at here? Um.

Oh, sure. So the bill in question was about banning specifically conversion therapy in the state back in 2018. And I think that they're speaking about a very specific kind of conversion therapy that's directed at folks in the LGBTQ+ community being directed towards a practice that, again, it seems like there's some consensus or a fair amount of criticism of that specific thing. So that's sort of the distinction I'm drawing here. It sort of seems like what I'm hearing from you is sort of like, you don't want to limit therapists from performing broadly. I think the law was more specific.

Well, I believe everyone should get the therapy they need and the help that they need. As far as you know, anything dangerous, I'm not sure about- I don't believe in that kind of therapy. I know there was some talk about, like, shock therapy that's so outdated. I don't believe in that, if that's what you're trying to get at. I don't support that kind of therapy. But I do believe that everyone should get be able to get some therapy. They need the help that they need and be able to ask those questions and have a good relationship with their therapist…


…no matter where that comes from, you know, um, and be supportive.

So another thing that the Democratic Governors drew attention to was your relationship with the Renew Massachusetts Coalition. It's a conservative advocacy group that has opposed transgender rights in the state and public funding of abortion. I wondered if you could sort of explain that relationship and your stance on issues like transgender rights and abortion in Massachusetts?

Sure, well, um, I did not work for Renew Mass before- It had a name change and underwent some new, I believe there's been some new role changes since I worked with them many years ago, over 10 years ago. And with that, I was just helping pro-life candidates at the time. It's no question that I am pro-life. I do stand by that. But I'm also very understanding that of other people's views on this, and this is something, abortion is something that's protected in our constitution. So I'm not looking to go and change that. But personally, I am pro-life.

So on the topic of transgender rights in Massachusetts, where do you fall on that?

I don't believe that government should have a role in that. I believe everyone has the right and to feel how they want, and I support that.

At this point, when you look at sort of the slate of issues that that Renew Massachusetts sort of stands by at this point, would you work them again at this point in your political career?

No, I would not.

I'm also interested in some votes you've taken about protections for workers in the state, about wage theft and a vote you made against paid sick leave in the state. Can you sort of unpack for me some of those positions you've taken about workers’ rights in Massachusetts?

Sure. I always support workers’ rights. I, I look at it more- Any vote, I think I look at both sides. I certainly support workers’ rights. But I feel like there are a lot of bills that have unintended consequences that we're not that we're not always looking at, especially to the business community. And if it affects the business, then that comes back and affects the worker as well. So I do think that we do have to look at both sides of the issue when we are looking at workers’ rights.

I want to take a look broadly at the competition out there on the Democratic side of the ticket. It seems like the front runner is Attorney General Maura Healey. She has a large war chest, a lot of name recognition, and is sort of the presumptive favorite in this coming contest. What are your thoughts on Maura Healey as an opponent in the political field and as a politician in the state to this date?

Well, right now, we're focused on the primary, but I believe that, from what I see, that, Chris and I bring a message of Massachusetts First. We're putting the families and workers of Massachusetts are our focus and priority over some issues that may not be in line with Maura Healey.

So with the phrase Massachusetts First- I mean, there's sort of- I hear the echo of America First from the Trump campaign in that. Is that a deliberate parallel?

No, not at all. No, you know, we've been dealing with the, you know, since 2016, you know, I've been asked relentlessly about affiliating with Trump, and I'm not going to put my record and my reputation against his. I don't want to be compared that way.

Well, fair enough. I guess I'm saying with that slogan, there sort of seems to be like, an inevitable connection being drawn there.

No. No. I think that’s being read into something that's not there.

So let's unpack Massachusetts First. Is there- It sort of suggests that maybe something has put Massachusetts second. What sort of forces in the state do you feel like – certainly, you know, coming to the close of a long run of a Republican governorship – what has put Massachusetts second in Massachusetts?

I think that we're too focused on national issues, you know. And I think that as both, you know, if you want to draw a distinction between, you know, Geoff Diehl on the far right who’s screaming about Trump, and then you have Maura Healey, like I said, who's focused on very progressive issues, you know, on the national level, we're here to focus on Massachusetts, not putting national politics into this race, but focusing on what issues are affecting Massachusetts.

Looking at Governor Charlie Baker and his legacy –I want to sort of circle back to this – when it comes to some of the stances he's taken and what it would mean to carry on the legacy of a Republican governorship in Massachusetts should you and Chris's campaign be successful, what would you want to keep in place from the Baker era? And what are the changes you would want to make in your, during your tenure?

Sure. That's a great question. And I think there's a lot of things that we can point to in the Baker administration that have been successful. One I think was what Baker and Polito did right out the gate with the community compact agreements. You know, going out, reaching out to all 351 cities and towns and working with them for their best practices and what's going to make them successful for their towns and working with them to get there, building those relationships. I think that's something that Chris and I are looking to continue. I think that's very important to have that relationship with our municipality.

I'm interested in your stance on the state's approach to COVID-19. Over the course of the crisis, how are you finding yourself reacting to the decisions made by the state's public health world? Do you think they were too stringent? Not stringent enough? How did you think that was carried out throughout the pandemic?

You know, it is an interesting question we're all trying to find the answer to, right? It's- We were put in the middle of this crisis we did not see coming and we tried to make the best decisions with the information that we had. And I think that Charlie Baker did the best he could with making these decisions with the information we had. Now that we're learning more, I think we can look back and see, okay, this may have worked, this didn't work. And we can put those, again, best practices going forward and seeing what went right, what went wrong.

Let's talk about more specifically, say, a masked mandate. At any point, did you feel like it was appropriate for the state to put forward a mask mandate? I know that's been a topic that's been sort of controversial across the country and in fact, the nation. When it comes to an issue like mask mandates or vaccine mandates, do you think that this the state had the authority or the right to impose that on folks in Massachusetts?

Well, you know, again, I think that Charlie Baker did the best with the information that he has. Personally, I believe in personal responsibility, that we need to be able to make the best decisions to keep ourselves healthy and moving forward. You know, I think we need to talk more about preventative, you know, as we're coming out of this pandemic, and we're seeing a lot of mask mandates lifted, a lot of vaccine mandates lifted. So I think that personal responsibility still ties in. You need to do what you feel is safe to protect you whether that's getting a vaccine, whether that's wearing a mask, but I do think we need to start moving towards more preventative. Okay, let's talk about making sure we get our vitamin D, our zinc, you know, scientifically proven things. So I think we can we can work on focusing on those measures more now than the mandate.

So, Kate, lastly, I'm interested just sort of broadly in talking about the Republican Party’s chances during this election cycle. To put it mildly, it seems like the party is coming into this as the underdog, so to speak. What do you think that the purpose of this is at this point for folks in your party to be having these conversations? What is the effort at play inside the party to put forward different candidates and have these conversations? Do you feel like there's sort of, you know, a struggle to determine the voice of the party at this point?

You know, I don't have much involvement with the party itself and putting forth those candidates. Chris and I are focused on our own our own message of what we think it is to run as a Republican here in Massachusetts, being that independent voice, and that's what we're focused on.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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