Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld presented himself the savior of the GOP while also fielding questions from Granite State voters at the Whipple Free Library in New Boston on Saturday morning. Weld focused on various aspects of his policy positions throughout the Town Hall. With the New Hampshire primary only days away, many of the voters in attendance were still undecided.
A few were set on casting their vote for Weld, but the majority were there to get a final take on the former governor. Weld is a familiar face in the area and his reputation as a fiscal conservative with a Libertarian streak resonated with the crowd.
Don McGinley, 71, of New Boston, said that he was happy to see someone running as a Republican who was not President Trump. McGinley said that the current version of the Republican Party was unrecognizable and that he felt Weld was someone who represented the traditional values of the party.
“I was a card-carrying Republican for my whole life until 2016,” McGinley said. “What Donald Trump has done to this party is a shame. Governor Weld represents someone I can feel confident in and he was a damn good governor. Maybe the best Massachusetts has ever had.”
Even though McGinley felt strongly about Weld, when asked if he would be voting for Weld on Tuesday’s primary, he said he still didn’t know.
“I liked what Amy Klobuchar had to say during the debate,” McGinley said. I guess we’ll find out come Tuesday.”
During the Town Hall, Weld briefly highlighted his thoughts on key election themes such as job creation, protecting the middle class, and the climate crisis. Weld emphasized the national debt–it was out of control and needed more budgetary oversight.
“We have someone in the White House now who has ballooned the national debt to its highest level ever,” Weld said. “We need a fiscal conservative who will shrink the debt and take responsibility.”
Clearly comfortable in the intimate setting, he answered questions without much hesitation and even managed to sneak in a few jokes. Weld, however, struggled when asked about his position regarding the rights of workers with cognitive disabilities.
Sean Aleong, 32, a student reporter from Temple University, asked the former governor how he would make sure the rights of workers with disabilities would be protected and if he would ensure that those workers were not being paid less than minimum wage, as is the case with many cognitively impaired workers. Weld stumbled over his answer and attempted to cite his time as governor as proof that he took the issue seriously.
“You can look at my time as governor and see that my administration worked with a number of groups to place people with disabilities in the work force,” Weld said. “We did our best to place people who wanted to work in environments where they could succeed. Those jobs included cleaning buildings after hours and things like that. Look, they might not be the most glamorous of jobs but they’re still working and that is the important thing.”
The response was Weld’s weakest moment in an otherwise steady showing.
Members of the audience came from all parts of the state and the surrounding areas. Students from New York, Philadelphia, and Rhode Island joined the New Hampshire voters.
Zachary Morrison, 18, is a senior high school student from St. Joeseph’s Prep in Philadelphia. He said he was attending the Town Hall to get a feel for the candidate’s positions. Morrison said even though he was relatively new to the political scene, he wanted to hear what the former governor had to offer. Morrison’s parents had voted for Trump in 2016 but felt that his way of leading was not best for the country.
“I don’t know that much about politics, so I figured getting to see the candidates up close was the best way to learn more,” Morrison said. “My class and I have gone to see some of the Democrats speak, like Yang and Sanders, so we wanted to get a look at someone from the opposite end of the political spectrum.”
Morrison said that many of the candidates and their staffs were welcoming and friendly; however, the Sanders campaign was not as open as some of the others.
“They didn’t seem that interested in answering all of our questions,” Morrison said. “The Weld people were much more helpful.”
Abigail Nelson, 31, was visiting New Boston from Rhode Island and was at the Town Hall to see if Weld is the type of candidate for whom she could feel comfortable voting. Although she lives in Rhode Island, Nelson works in New Hampshire during the winter and thought it would be good to see him in person before casting her vote during her state’s primary.
“I want to know if Weld can be the face of the Republican Party,” Nelson said. “Does he have what it takes to beat Trump? Is he more representative of what the GOP stands for?”
The idea that Weld represents more traditional GOP positions was echoed by the former governor and members of his staff.
Ryan Durmot, 29, works on the Weld campaign in New Hampshire and said that Weld is looking to bring back the traditions and values the GOP has held in the past. He believed the former governor had a good shot at getting enough delegates to speak at the Republican Convention.
“The Party is making it difficult, that’s for sure,” Durmot said. “But all we need is six delegates to speak and we already have one. Governor Weld represents the GOP in ways Donald Trump could never and we believe that his political positions and reputation as a fiscal conservative will bring together a rainbow coalition of Republicans, Libertarians, and even Democrats that can defeat Trump in November.”