Bill Weld Suspends Presidential Campaign

Presidential candidate and former Mass. Gov. Bill Weld. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Presidential candidate and former Mass. Gov. Bill Weld. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Former Mass. Gov. William Weld has suspended his presidential campaign for the Republican nomination.

"While I am suspending my candidacy, I want to be clear that I am not suspending my commitment to our nation and to the democratic institutions that set us apart," Weld said in a statement released Wednesday.

In departing the race, Weld took a moment to emphasize his commitment to the reasons he ran, including restoring the rule of law to the presidency and Justice Department, reining in the federal deficit, instituting a carbon tax to combat climate change, strengthening relationships with military allies, and addressing income inequality.

"Because of the damage that has been done to our social fabric during the past three years, in order to maintain national unity the U.S. Government must now directly address income inequality, by cutting taxes for lower income wage earners and families living below the federal poverty line," he said.

Weld, who ran as a Republican challenger to President Donald Trump, never caught on with voters, even in his home state. He was shellacked by Trump in the Massachusetts primary, losing to Trump by 78 percentage points. Weld won just two tiny Bay State towns: Gosnold in Buzzard's Bay and Pelham on the shores of the Quabbin Reservoir.

Several states didn't bother with a Republican primary at all, even with Weld and former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh running for the party's nomination. Weld could have faced a similar ignominy in Massachusetts, where the state Republican party submitted only Trump's name for the primary. Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin added Weld to the list of candidates despite the state party's protests.

He also struggled to get his message out in the media, imploring reporters at one point, "Any members of the press want to talk?"

His departure from the campaign closes the latest chapter of an eccentric political career. A former federal prosecutor, Weld was once the most powerful Republican in Massachusetts and a figure seemingly ready for national prominence.

His political ambitions blossomed in the aftermath of another Massachusetts politico's failed presidential run. Gov. Michael Dukakis decided not to seek reelection, after his 1988 presidential run led to ridicule and an overwhelming loss to Vice President George H.W. Bush.

Weld ran for governor in 1990, and squared off against John Silber, the iron-willed president of Boston University and a figure legendary in Bay State politics for his combative style. Weld had a knack for getting under Silber's skin; during one debate, an exasperated Silber demanded Weld agree to end negative campaigning, saying, "Try to see if you can't find something good about yourself that might commend you to the voters."

Weld brought his quirky personal style to the office, best displayed along the Charles River in 1996. During a press conference about the river's cleanup, a fully-dressed Weld dove headfirst into the water, which at the time was not classified as drinkable or even fit for human contact.


“The river wasn’t as clean as I thought,” Weld told New York magazine in 2006. “I had an earache for three weeks.”

Later in 1996, Weld had his eyes set on a new job: U.S. Senator. He challenged Democratic incumbent John Kerry, leading to a battle between two biggest political stars not named Kennedy. The two debated seven times, including a raucous affair in August.

Weld lost the race to Kerry, and by 1997 was out of office, resigning as governor to pursue an ambassadorship under Democratic President Bill Clinton. But his bid to become the U.S. ambassador to Mexico was sunk by Republican Sen. Jesse Helms of South Carolina, who was then the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman.

Helms, who said he was concerned about Weld's moderate position on social issues, said the Massachusetts Republican would not get a hearing for the post.

"Well, my mother and father taught me that I'm no better than anybody else, but also that I'm no worse," Weld said during a press conference announcing his withdrawal from consideration, according to the Washington Post. "So I said I wouldn't go on bended knee and I wouldn't kiss anything."

After being rebuffed by Helms, Weld settled into the private sector, working as an attorney and a university president. He also wrote novels, including one set in a fictional town that was decommissioned and drowned to form the Quabbin Reservoir.

The lure of politics drew him into runs for New York governor in 2005. He moved to the state but lost in the primary.

In 2016, Weld ran for vice president in support of Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, abandoning the Republican Party.

“If you hear nothing else from me, hear this: I pledge to you that I will stay with the Libertarian Party for life,”Weld told skeptical delegates at the 2016 Libertarian Party convention.

But it became immediately clear that Weld did not have the fervor of a political convert. As Johnson struggled to gain any traction in the campaign, Weld tried to squash rumors that he planned on dropping out of the race. By November, he began to openly advocate for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, declaring that defeating Trump should be the priority for voters.


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Roberto Scalese Senior Editor, Digital
Roberto Scalese is a senior editor for digital.



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