As thousands of Republicans statewide prepare to endorse a candidate for governor at the GOP convention this month, many party members look at William F. Weld '66 and see the future, a liberal who might be able to draw in voters from across party lines.
But other party members look at the former U.S. prosecutor and see only the past.
They look back to 1984, the year that Ray Shamie defeated Eliott L. Richardson '41, a liberal Republican characterized by his opponents as a Yankee Brahmin, in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. Shamie, currently the GOP state committee chair, lost to Democrat John F. Kerry in the general election.
And this year, Weld supporters are doing their best to ensure that the Harvard- and Oxford-educated attorney does not become the Richardson of 1990.
What many see as Weld's greatest strength is his mixture of social progressivism with fiscal conservatism. The Cambridge resident paints himself as a crossover candidate, whose support for abortion rights and environmental conservation will appeal to Democratic voters.
Others, however, maintain that Weld might alienate as many votes from his own party as he would attract from the Democrats.
"The big obstacle to Weld could be the enthusiasm with which the Republican ideologues will sacrifice victory for a strong ideological stance," says Glen S. Koocher '71, a Cambridge Republican and a convention delegate.
Koocher says Weld's agenda, even with its conservative fiscal policies and pro-death penalty stance, will be seen by many Republicans as too progressive. "In the Republican primary, that could be a disadvantage."
Nonetheless, Weld maintains that his supposedly liberal views are not out of line with the GOP mainstream.
"Labels are funny," says Weld, 44, who spoke to The Crimson last week in an interview. "You take an anti-government position on the question of abortion, people say you are a liberal. Usually being anti-government or not wanting government to run people's lives is considered a hallmark of conservatism. You take an pro-conservationist position on an environmental matter, people say you are liberal.
"I would point out that the root of the word conservative is the same as the root of the word conservationist," he adds.
Nonetheless, the label that may stick to Weld as the Republican campaign heats up is one he may find difficult to shake: that of a wealthy, blue-blood Republican in the Richardson mold.
The former prosecutor's strong ties to Harvard and the affluent segment of Cambridge may compound this image. A resident of Adams House during his undergraduate years, Weld was a member of the Fly Club, one of nine all-male final clubs, which have recently been criticized for their policy of excluding women.
After studying economics and political science for a year at Oxford University, Weld attended Harvard Law School. He went to work shortly after at the prestigious Boston law firm of Hill & Barlow, where he began amassing contacts in the Boston business and law communities. He adds associates from his five-year tenure as U.S. attorney for Massachusetts and his stint as assistant attorney general heading up the criminal division under the Reagan administration to the long list of potential contributors.
And Weld backers say the blue-blood image may not hurt Weld as much as his opponents--chief among them State Rep. Steven D. Pierce (R-Westfield)--would like it to.