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To a packed conference room abuzz with rumor of his impending resignation, Governor William F. Weld '66 emphatically declared his intention to pursue office beyond the Massachusetts State House.
His immediate goal: Becoming ambassador to Mexico.
"I intend to stand and fight for the Mexico ambassadorship," Weld said, breaking his self-described "radio silence" on the issue. The White House has not yet formally nominated the governor for the position.
During the news conference, Weld sharply attacked U.S. Senator Jesse Helms, a fellow Republican, for using "ideological extortion" to block his nomination as ambassador to Mexico.
Helms, the conservative chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, raised concerns that Weld has been too soft on drugs as governor, U.S. attorney in Massachusetts and as the former No. 3 official in the U.S. Justice Department. Specifically, Helms has objected to Weld's support for the medical use of marijuana.
Helms has said he will not even schedule a hearing to review Weld's nomination to the Mexico post.
Weld called Helms' concerns "complete phony baloney," claiming that Helms is hiding greater ideological objections to the governor's relatively liberal stands on social issues such as abortion and gay rights.
"Senator Helms's opposition has nothing whatsoever to do with drug policy," Weld said. "It has everything to do with the future of the Republican Party. In plain language, I am not Senator Helms's kind of Republican. I do not pass his litmus test on social policy. Nor do I want to," the Governor said.
Helms spokesperson Marc Thiessen described the governor's attack as both self-serving and self-defeating. "If the governor wants a fight, I guess he is prepared to lose," Thiessen told the Boston Globe.
Weld urged President Clinton, who has in the past dropped support of controversial candidates, to stand up and fight for his cause.
After a lukewarm initial response from the White House to Weld's Tuesday press conference, the White House agreed on Wednesday to fight to the finish for Weld's nomination.
"He said we're going to nominate him, and we're going to fight for the nomination," White House spokesperson Mike McCurry told reporters, relating a call made to Weld by White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles.
Two Weld aides--who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity--said Weld will likely resign from the governorship as soon as his name is submitted to the Senate for confirmation.
Weld's resignation is expected by the end of the month.
This story was compiled using material from the Associated Press.
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