Gary Johnson

William Weld as Gary Johnson's Vice Presidential Choice to Be Officially Announced Tomorrow

But the '90s Massachusetts governor's past stances might trouble many Libertarians who care about more than just fiscal issues.

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William Weld will officially announce his desire for the Libertarian Party's vice presidential slot, in alliance with presidential hopeful Gary Johnson, tomorrow, Associated Press reports. I wrote about the first inklings of this Weld move yesterday.

Weld/Mintz Levin law firm website

Both men are former Republican governors, Weld of Massachusetts and Johnson of New Mexico. Johnson ran with the L.P. last go-round, and Weld has long been associated with the idea of "libertarian Republicans" and indeed intended to use the L.P. ballot line on his 2006 run for governor of New York in addition to the Republican one. He ended up dropping out of that race and not appearing on the ballot for either party, but the L.P. at the time was willing to back him.

Weld currently works as a lawyer with the East Coast firm Mintz Levin.

From the A.P. report:

"We got together and shook hands on it," Johnson told the AP in an interview in Salt Lake City, where his underdog presidential campaign is based. "It brings an enormous amount of credibility to what it is I'm doing. I'm unbelievably flattered by this and humbled."

Weld, a well-respected former governor in the Northeast, offers Johnson some credibility and badly needed fundraising prowess. The 70-year-old will announce his vice presidential bid in New York on Thursday, Johnson said.

"He could be a huge influence when it comes to fundraising. Huge," said Johnson, whose campaign had only $35,000 in the bank at the end of March. "That was something that he in fact volunteered — that he enjoys doing it." 

It's not immediately clear how another Republican governor adds that much to Johnson's existing credibility as a former major party executive. Nor is Weld necessarily Libertarian Party strength in his libertarianism, from past reporting—though both in his planned embrace of the L.P. back in 2006 and other anecdotes I've heard from libertarians who have dealt with him, Weld seems to like to think of himself as libertarian. The Cato Institute's final grade on his fiscal performance as governor during the 1990s gave him just a B, though. [UPDATE: Jeff Jacoby's detailed take on Weld's fiscal record from City Journal also dings him for starting strong but failing to follow through on true spending reductions in his state in the 1990s, and for lacking a strong, consistent, across the board attitude about shrinking government.]

W. James Antle, writing in 2005 in the American Spectator in the lead up to Weld's failed run for New York governor in 2006, heaps much praise on Weld's fiscal bona fides, at least through most of his governorship, and says he truly is that basic template of the libertarian used by media frequently: fiscally conservative, socially liberal.

But that's a necessary-not-sufficient part of the larger Libertarian thing, and Antle goes on to point out:

DOES THIS STRANGE COMBINATION of thorough economic conservatism and social liberalism make Weld a libertarian? Not unless libertarians also support expansive environmental regulations, gun control, and affirmative action. Although he has favored medical marijuana and needle-exchange programs, he does not, as is occasionally assumed, support drug legalization and has bragged about prosecuting "drug thugs" while serving in the Reagan Justice Department.

Weld has also sometimes been for eminent domain during that New York gubernatorial race. Weld also endorsed Obama over Romney in 2008, a point that might make him less of a champ at getting GOP money to flow to the L.P., but we'll see.

An interesting cross-section of Libertarian opinion on Weld—a lot of it more enthusiastic than I might have expected—can be found in this thread at Independent Political Report. Some details on his gun control bonafides, including Weld's belief, at least in 1993, in an assault weapon ban and no handgun ownership rights for anyone under 21.

I'm a bit doubtful that Weld's name holds much weight for anyone who didn't work for a policy think tank in the 1990s, but we'll see. As I wrote yesterday, this is a pretty daring and confident move for Johnson, more or less telling the L.P. delegates who will have to vote both for him then separately for the v-p slot in Orlando over Memorial Day weekend: I don't need to widen my appeal at all; a relatively non-doctrinaire (compared to his competition) former GOP governor is such a great idea for the L.P. that I'm sure you'll want to double up on us.