Republican gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl condemned “acts of intimidation” that he claimed have been occurring against people supporting a potential ballot question that would seek to repeal a new state law allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.
Diehl, a former state rep who supports the ballot measure, said in a Friday statement that people gathering signatures for it have been “heckled, intimidated and threatened” across the state.
In some cases, he said protesters have been physically combative and have tried to rip up signature papers, which he said is “unacceptable” and “downright dangerous.”
Diehl called for his Democratic opponent for governor, Attorney General Maura Healey, who supported the new law, to join him in condemning such alleged acts.
“Today, I am calling on Maura Healey to do her job and join with me in condemning attacks on people gathering signatures for a ballot question to repeal the law giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants,” Diehl said.
“I support these signature gatherers’ right to exercise their political liberty free from intimidation, harassment, and physical violence. I expect Maura Healey — who is currently our state’s top law enforcement official — to do the same notwithstanding her personal political leanings.”
Healey declined comment through her press secretary from the attorney general’s office.
The bill to allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses in Massachusetts became law last month after the state Senate voted to override Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto.
Baker has said allowing the change would require the Registry of Motor Vehicles to issue state credentials to people without the ability to verify their identity.
The new law makes it so a standard Massachusetts driver’s license would no longer confirm that a person is who they say they are, Baker said.
Proponents of the new law have framed the change as a matter of public safety — they say a license proves people’s ability to drive and would keep roads safer.
Diehl said in a Friday press release said he wanted the signature collectors to know that he “has their back.”
“They believe, as do I, that this law will significantly undermine public safety in our Commonwealth and threaten the integrity of our elections,” he said.
Diehl’s Republican primary opponent, Chris Doughty, told the Herald on Friday that he also condemns the intimidation, but took a shot at his challenger as well.
“No one should be intimidated for being involved in the political process,” Doughty said in a statement. “People have the right to have their voices heard. These types of tactics don’t belong in Massachusetts, which is the birthplace of democracy.
“However, the timing of this press release is suspect after his poor performance at the debate.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.