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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.
"The Democrats tried to use that on George Bush, and it didn't work then, and it won't work now," says Ray Howell, a spokesperson for Weld's campaign.
Without doubt, the central issue in the upcoming campaign will be the state's ongoing fiscal crisis, which has plunged the Massachusetts bond rating to the lowest in the nation and raised the specter of draconian cuts in local aid and human services for the upcoming year.
Like Pierce, Weld has made a "no-new-taxes" pledge part of his campaign. Unlike his opponent however, Weld insists that the state can close its $500 million budget deficit by cutting a total of $1 billion in the state work force, the state employee health insurance account and consultant contracts.
Opponents are skeptical of the plan, but itsbasic simplicity, combined with an early barrageof television advertisements could well draw invoters from both parties.
But Weld may also suffer rightwing backlashfrom his resignation from his federal post toprotest Attorney General Edwin Meese's involvementin the Wedtech scandal. Many conservatives chargeWeld with embarrassing the Reagan administrationand attack him for showing a lack of partyloyalty.
"My thought is that in some circumstancesfidelity to law becomes more important than partyloyalty, as a matter of fact in mostcircumstances," Weld says. "We did not blindsidethe White House."
Many Republicans were also upset with Weld'sdecision to run as a team with State Sen. A. PaulCellucci (R-Hudson), who abandoned his own questfor the corner office to run for lieutenantgovernor with Weld. Cellucci, who is pro-choiceand supports the Gay Rights Act, is alsoconsidered too liberal on social issues by many ofthe party's arch-conservatives.
Weld's federal appointments have helpedestablish a sound public service record, but havedistanced him from some members of both partieswho see him as a stranger to Massachusetts,spending a large part of his public life commutingto Washington.
"He doesn't really tune into local politics,and he doesn't seem to want to," says State Sen.Michael J. Barrett '70 (D-Cambridge), who livesdown the street from Weld on affluent FayerweatherAve. in Cambridge. "He lives in Cambridge, but Idon't know how interested he is in Cambridge."
Barrett says he was struck by Weld's lack ofinterest in meeting state government officials,both in passing and at various state events.
"That lack of interest in other public policypeople can be a fatal drawback," he says.
And State Rep. Richard R. Tisei (R-Wakefield),Weld's campaign committee chair, says in the earlydays of the race, his candidate had to learn a lotabout state politics.
"It wasn't very good in June," Tisei says ofWeld's speaking style, adding that the candidateoften did not acknowledge other politicians duringcampaign events.
"I was holding myself in check, I think, byhabit for many of my early appearances on thestump, and the consensus was that that was notvery effective," Weld says. "You got to swing alittle bit more for the fences as a politician."
"It's different," he says of his return toelective politics. You spend your whole life,professional life, learning discipline and thenenter another arena where rigor and discipline arenot the only valuable habits, particularly inspeaking style," Weld says.
Weld supporters, including Tisei, point totheir candidate's success in recent delegateselections to the March convention as indicatorsthat he is improving.
Howell estimates that Weld is ahead of Pierce,who has cemented extensive party ties as Houseminority leader since 1987, by 200 to 300delegates.
The Weld campaign hopes to win March 10, butHowell says regardless of the convention results,Weld will be running in September.
"Bill Weld will be a candidate in the primaryno matter what happens," Howell says
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