William Floyd Weld is a man with a long and storied heritage. An ancestor was a Sheriff of London in the 14th century, three more were among the Pilgrims on board the Mayflower during its voyage to the New World, one was a founding donor of Harvard, another signed the Declaration of Independence, one more fought valorously in the Civil War – we could literally fill an entire page with the exploits of the Welds. If New England had a royal family, then the Welds must be sitting pretty close to the throne. In fact, the clan is one of the most influential among the Boston Brahmin.
It would’ve been so easy for Gov. Weld to simply coast along on his family name and wealth. But Gov. Weld was a man of principles, and for better or worse, he was also a political maverick. He was probably born a card-carrying Republican, but he never quite fit in with the party.
A couple of years after graduating from Harvard Law School (where else?) with a law degree in 1970, he served as a counsel with the House Judiciary Committee in Washington D.C. in preparation for impeachment proceeding against his own party leader, President Richard Nixon.
He returned to Massachusetts after that, and was very quickly promoted to District Attorney. He went on a rampage against corruption in the city, and even took down the Mayor of Boston. He was also a scourge of the banking industry. Gov. Weld’s record of 109 convictions out of 111 cases might have been a record of sorts - if only someone was keeping score.
The Reagan administration took notice of the hotshot lawyer, and President Ronald Reagan appointed him to head the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. For two years, Gov. Weld supervised all federal government investigations and prosecutions, in an out of the country. But he abruptly resigned in March 1988, and a few months later, testified in Congress against his boss, U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese, who was facing corruption charges.
Less than two years later, Weld ran for Governor of Massachusetts. The state GOP was slightly uncomfortable with the pro-marijuana decriminalization, pro-LGBT and pro-choice upstart (there were even reports that he was a member of the ACLU), but his socially liberal views proved popular with the Democratic base – so they threw their support behind him. In an interview with the Boston Globe, Gov. Weld remarked "On crime issues, I'm Attila the Hun […] There's no room to my right." It certainly helped that his competitor, John R. Silber, president of Boston University, infuriated his base with offensive comments about women and the LGBT community.
It wasn’t really a surprise when Weld won the election and became the first Republican Governor of Massachusetts in 25 years. Four years later, Gov. Weld won reelection by securing an incredible 71% of the vote – almost unheard of in modern top-level politics – especially in a state where Democrats outnumbered Republicans by four to one.
His new found confidence even saw him trying to remove the pro-life stance from the Republican platform during the 1996 Republican National Convention in San Diego. He failed, and his star dimmed a little. In 1996, Gov. Weld ran against heavyweight John Kerry for a seat in the U.S Senate, but that proved to be a bridge just a little too far.
In 1997, President Bill Clinton nominated Gov. Weld as U.S Ambassador to Mexico. But there were strong resistance from the Senate against his appointment. There were loud rumors that former Attorney General Ed Meese had a hand in it. Regardless, Gov. Weld didn’t even receive a hearing.
Gov. Weld then disappeared from the limelight, and aside from a failed run for Governor of New York in 2005, he only reappeared briefly in 2008 to endorse the then-Senator Barack Obama for president.
But he’s back now, as the Libertarian Party’s nominee for vice-president no less, and one suspects that this has always been the party of his heart.