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Bill Weld Will Be On Mass. Primary Ballots Despite The State GOP's Effort To Block Him

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld speaks during the Climate Forum at Georgetown University, on Sept. 20. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld speaks during the Climate Forum at Georgetown University, on Sept. 20. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

For almost seven years, Bill Weld carried the flag for Massachusetts Republicans in the governor's office, starting a 16-year reign of GOP chief executives on Beacon Hill that lasted until 2007.

The Canton Republican still holds the state's gubernatorial record for largest margin of victory in his 1994 landslide re-election, losing just five towns. And he was the MassGOP's nominee for U.S. Senate in 1996 when he mounted a serious campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. John Kerry.

Now, Weld will appear on the March 3 presidential Republican primary ballot in his home state, despite the efforts of the political party he once led.

He has Secretary of State William Galvin, a Democrat, to thank, instead.

Galvin has given all four political parties in Massachusetts - including the Democratic, Republican, Green-Rainbow and Libertarian parties — until Friday to submit a list of candidates they want to appear on their Super Tuesday primary ballots. The Massachusetts Democratic Party submitted 15 names, including U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warrern and former Gov. Deval Patrick, on Thursday.

The lists are one of three ways a candidate can qualify for the presidential ballot in Massachusetts, and the MassGOP on Thursday submitted only the name of incumbent President Donald Trump.

"Having a sitting President as the only name on the potential candidate list is not unprecedented, and is in fact, an established procedure," MassGOP Chair Jim Lyons wrote.

Galvin on Thursday said he will add Weld's name to the ballot.

"I said to Mr. Lyons I would probaby add [Weld] if Mr. Lyons chose not to. He did not, so I will," Galvin said.

Weld thanked Galvin for his stance.

"When I was Governor, Republicans and Democrats in the Commonwealth respected one another and actually worked together," he said. "It is gratifying that such respect remains and that Secretary of State Galvin is ready to defend the rights of all Massachusetts voters."

Weld, who briefly left the Republican Party in 2016 to run as the vice presidential nominee on the Libertarian ticket, is mounting a long-shot primary challenge to President Trump, hoping to damage the incumbent in the process.

The former governor has predicted dire consequences for the Republican Party if Trump is not impeached and removed from office, a message that runs counter to Lyons's support for the president.

State law allows the secretary of state to unilaterally put a candidate on the primary ballot if they have determined the candidate to be "generally advocated or recognized in national news media throughout the United States."

The latest WBUR poll of New Hampshire Republicans had the former Massachusetts governor trailing the president with 9% of the vote. Trump led Weld 82% to 18% in an Emerson College poll of Massachusetts Republicans from April.

"I've already had a conversation with Mr. Lyons about this, and I told him that we had done our review and we thought Mr. Weld, as well as a former Congressman from Illinois, were national candidates," Galvin told the News Service on Thursday.

In addition to Weld, the secretary was referring to former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh. There's a fourth potential candidate — Roque de la Fuente — who Galvin said he does not consider to be a nationally recognized candidate who will likely have to turn in 2,500 signatures if he wants to qualify for the GOP primary. De la Fuentes ran as a Democrat in 2016 when he also took the signature route to the ballot.

Lyons said that during an incumbent presidency neither political party has submitted names other than that of the sitting president seeking re-election.

"We will follow set protocol and do the same, as has been done before in 2012 under Democratic President Barack Obama and in 2004 under Republican President George W. Bush," Lyons wrote.

Both Obama and Bush ran virtually unopposed in their re-election bids by any nationally known figures with the stature of someone like Weld.

But in 1992, MassGOP Chairman Leon Lombardi only put forward the name of President George H.W. Bush for the ballot, despite the incumbent being challenged by conservative commentator Pat Buchanan. Buchanan did end up getting onto the Massachusetts primary ballot that year, and won almost 75,000 votes, or 28%.

The parties, by law, have until Jan. 3 to submit their lists, but Galvin said he's following the same timeline he used during the last cycle in order to prepare ballots ahead of the Jan. 18 deadline to make them available to military and overseas voters.

Galvin plans to hold a drawing to determine the order of name placement on the ballots on Dec. 20, and candidates have until Jan. 10 to withdraw and have their names removed.

Tom Mountain, a Trump campaign spokesman in Massachusetts and New Hampshire and a member of the MassGOP state committee, has previously said that Weld should give up on his campaign.

"If he has any dignity he should ride off into the sunset," Mountain told the News Service last month after Weld held an event to call for Trump's impeachment. "No one is taking Bill Weld seriously except Bill Weld."

Gov. Charlie Baker suggested recently that he thought the Republican primary in Massachusetts would be a low-turnout affair with or without Weld on the ballot.

When discussing whether to schedule a special election for a state Senate seat on the same day as the primaries, Baker said, "I think having a general election for a state Senate seat on the same day as a presidential primary when you have numerous candidates running on one side, and for all intents and purposes, one and maybe two depending upon how the secretary of state puts the ballot together, on the other doesn't really give voters an opportunity to tune in on the state Senate race, which is what I would like to see them do in that race."

Baker has described Weld as a political mentor, but so far has declined to endorse his former boss over Trump, who he didn't vote for in 2016 and has frequently disagreed with.

Democratic Party Chairman Gus Bickford asked Galvin to include Warren, Patrick, former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Michael Bennet, Sen. Cory Booker, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Michael Bloomberg, Julian Castro, former Congressman John Delaney, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Tom Steyer, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang.

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