The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States is likely to take on a prominent role in at least two major statewide Mass elections next month.
Rep. Geoff Diehl, who handily won the Republican primary in September to take on Sen. Elizabeth Warren for her US Senate seat, has expressed support for Kavanaugh and dismissed allegations of sexual assault against the judge from victims dating back decades.
“I don’t think there’s any testimony or evidence at this point that indicate that anything inappropriate happened,” Diehl said of the attempted rape claim by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. He continued, “Unless we hear otherwise, he’s completed the process that would satisfy me.”
Diehl’s stance on the Supreme Court appointment could have been expected. His staunchly conservative campaign has mirrored policies of the Trump administration, and his nomination reflects the shift from so-called traditional “moderate” Mass Republicans like Mitt Romney and Charlie Baker to the hard-right ideology that has come to dominate the modern GOP.
Equally unsurprising, Warren has vehemently opposed the confirmation, calling the process a “sham.”
“Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the highest court in our country is the result of a decades-long assault on our judiciary launched by billionaires and giant corporations who want to control every branch of government,” Warren said in a speech on the Senate floor. “For years, those wealthy and well-connected people have invested massive sums of money into shaping our courts to fit their liking.”
While the SCOTUS debate is most relevant in Senate elections, Mass Democrats are also attempting to tie it to the race for governor.
For his part, Baker recently came out in opposition to Kavanaugh’s confirmation, citing his stances on abortion and gun control. “I don’t think anything happened during the confirmation process to change my mind,” Baker told reporters last Friday. “So for that reason … I don’t believe he should be on the Supreme Court.”
Nevertheless, Baker’s endorsement of Diehl in the Senate race stands to contradict that opposition.
“If Charlie Baker had his way, Geoff Diehl, Trump’s campaign co-chair here in Massachusetts, would go to Washington to represent us in the US Senate,” Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Jay Gonzalez said in a statement. “Diehl has made clear that he will support Trump’s agenda and Trump’s nominees.”
The governorship does have some bearing on the Senate and, therefore, the Supreme Court. If the Democrats unseat Trump in 2020, it is likely that one of the two sitting senators—Warren and Ed Markey—would be appointed to a position in the administration. In such a scenario, the governor would select a replacement until a special election were to be held. (In 2013, following John Kerry’s appointment as secretary of state, Mo Cowan held the Commonwealth’s junior seat for over six months before Markey won a special election.)
Both Diehl and Gonzalez trail the incumbents they’re chasing by significant margins. Democrats are hoping an anti-Trump wave can help sweep the latter into the corner office, while it appears the GOP’s leading priority is damaging the presidential prospects of Warren.
All of which has played out on the ground already. In Maine, protests erupted after their Republican senator, Susan Collins, announced her decision to support Kavanaugh.
In Boston, hundreds marched through the streets. Among their chants, “You are not above the law, down with Kavanaugh.”
Patrick Cochran is an independent journalist covering politics and grassroots activism.