Weld given leave at lobbying firm to run Libertarian VP campaign
By State House News Service | May 31, 2016, 14:18 EST
BOSTON – Bill Weld, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts and newly minted Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee, went on unpaid leave from his lobbying job in Boston on Monday, according to the firm’s president.
Stephen Tocco, the president and chief executive of ML Strategies where Weld is a principal, told the News Service Weld’s nomination on Sunday was “the triggering event” and began his period of unpaid leave.
At the Libertarian Party convention in Florida, Weld described himself as an “impact player” and renounced the Republican Party he has been aligned with throughout his past political career.
“Frankly it’s a relief not to have to carry the Republican Party’s anti-choice, anti-marriage-equality and anti-social-freedom positions around on my back as I’ve had to do for the last 30 years,” Weld said, exulting, “This is how we should all feel – free, free at last!”
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“I pledge to you that I will stay with the Libertarian Party for life,” Weld told convention delegates, including many who weren’t swayed by the newcomer.
Twice elected governor of Massachusetts in the 1990s, Weld was the losing candidate in a 1996 race for the U.S. Senate seat then held by John Kerry, now the U.S. Secretary of State. He resigned the office in July 1997 after being nominated as U.S. ambassador to Mexico by then-President Bill Clinton.
After he was stymied by Republican Sen. Jesse Helms in his bid for the diplomatic post, Weld moved to New York and briefly ran for the Republican nomination for governor of the Empire State, telling the New York Times in 2005 that he hoped to be the first two-state governor since Sam Houston, of Tennessee and Texas. Weld endorsed Democrat Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential race and Republican Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, in 2012’s White House contest.
As a lobbyist, Weld worked recently with Democrat Michael Dukakis, another former Massachusetts governor and his party’s 1988 presidential nominee, to push for a downtown Boston tunnel to connect North and South Stations.
Democrats appear on a path toward nominating Hillary Clinton for president, choosing a polarizing figure for many voters, while the bombastic commentary of Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has inspired ire in and out of the GOP. Libertarian Party figures have suggested that voter dissatisfaction may give their ticket a much better shot at winning at least some states in November. Both Clinton, a former U.S. Secretary of State, and Trump, a former reality television star, have higher negative than positive ratings among voters, polls show.
Romney gave a speech this year excoriating Trump as a fraudster and encouraging Republicans to vote for his opponents in state primaries.
At the Orlando, Florida, Libertarian convention, Weld described Democrats and Republicans as “calcified, ossified parties, locked in a duopoly, kind of a death-spiral embrace where they seem to be obsessed about out-slandering each other more than doing the people’s business.”
Weld joined the ticket headed by former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, also a former Republican and the Libertarian presidential nominee in 2012. Prior to Weld’s selection, Johnson told delegates that if they chose Weld, “at a minimum I think we’re in the presidential debates.” He also said: “If it’s not Bill Weld I don’t think that that happens.”
Johnson speculated about a “real possibility that we can achieve major party status in this country” in the November voting. From polling that showed a Johnson-Weld ticket at 10 percent, Johnson extrapolated that the Libertarian ticket was connecting with 18 million voters.
In addition to touting Weld’s fundraising abilities, Johnson said Weld has made 25 national media appearances since emerging as a Libertarian candidate, contrasting that with Jim Gray, his 2012 running mate, who Johnson said did not make any national media appearances.
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Tocco, who served in Weld’s administration, declined to comment on Weld’s latest campaign. As a candidate, Weld will continue “poking in and out” of his ML Strategies office space, and the campaign will be billed for the time, Tocco said.
Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican who held top cabinet posts in Weld’s administration, has said of the presidential field, he’s “not going to vote for any of these people,” and critiqued the Libertarian platform.
“I have all kinds of qualms with a lot of the Libertarian party’s positions generally. They support among other things the full legalization of all drugs, including cocaine and heroin,” Baker said on Boston Herald Radio last week. He also said he loves Weld, describing him as “fun and interesting” for the news media because of his unpredictability.
“We favor the repeal of all laws creating ‘crimes’ without victims, such as the use of drugs for medicinal or recreational purposes, since only actions that infringe on the rights of others can properly be termed crimes,” the Libertarian platform states. “Individuals retain the right to voluntarily assume risk of harm to themselves.”
As is the case in the federal branches of government and despite the efforts of smaller political groups, Democrats and Republicans hold all the levers of power in Massachusetts.
Out of 3.1 million Massachusetts ballots cast in November 2012, Johnson received 1 percent of the vote.
Weld said the Libertarian Party platform was “excellent,” and a contrast, in its simplicity, to the Democrat and Republican platforms that he said were aimed at “appeasing 950 interest groups.”
The party nominated both Johnson and Weld on separate second rounds of voting, according to the party, which said it plans to be on the ballot in all 50 states in November. In a statement, the party said Weld “barely” had the required majority of votes.
Weld won 441 votes on the second ballot, trailed by Larry Sharpe, a trainer and coach for executives, who received 409 votes.
In Orlando, Weld said he had “always called myself” a Libertarian, despite only joining the party 14 days ago.
Written by Andy Metzger