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Weld returns to campaign for Healey as a moderate

William F. Weld, a former Bay State governor, made a trip to Massachusetts yesterday to show his support for gubernatorial candidate Kerry Healey. 'I would say she is a Weld Republican,' he said.
William F. Weld, a former Bay State governor, made a trip to Massachusetts yesterday to show his support for gubernatorial candidate Kerry Healey. "I would say she is a Weld Republican," he said. (Globe Staff Photo / Matthew J. Lee)

Flashbulbs popping and cameras rolling, William F. Weld marched back into the Massachusetts political scene yesterday, shook hands with Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, and declared that she is a lot like him.

"I would say she is a Weld Republican," the former governor said during a packed press conference at Healey's campaign headquarters in downtown Boston.

The reason, he said, is clear.

"There's not too many things you have to get right in terms of blocking and tackling if you're a governor," Weld said, "but one of them is preventing tax increases in a high-tax state like this."

Healey beamed and thanked Weld for being a "visible reminder of why it's important that we have balance on Beacon Hill."

"I've always been a Weld Republican," Healey said, adding that Weld campaigned for her in 1998, when she ran unsuccessfully for state representative.

"I'm a social moderate," she said. "I'm a fiscal conservative. And I would be honored to be called a Weld Republican."

In calling on Weld, Healey appeared to be reaching out to moderate voters who have helped elect Republican governors in the past. Weld, like Healey, supports abortion rights and civil unions for gay couples, while opposing new tax increases.

This week, Healey launched an advertisement with another prominent, moderate Republican, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

Weld said, "I think the Healey-Hillman ticket is a superb ticket, and I think it's just what Massachusetts needs at this time, particularly in the context of two legislative bodies so lopsidedly cantilevered for the other side of the political ledger."

But Weld's appearance also delighted the Democrats. Aides to Deval L. Patrick pointed out that Healey has avoided campaigning with the current governor, Mitt Romney, whose frequent out-of-state travel and increasingly conservative tack have hurt his popularity in Massachusetts.

To be sure, Healey rarely, if ever, calls herself a "Romney Republican."

"It seems that Kerry Healey's efforts to run far and fast away from Mitt Romney and the failed policies of her own Romney-Healey administration have just hit a new level with today's joint appearance with Bill Weld," said Richard Chacon, a Patrick spokesman. "When will she meet with Mitt Romney?"

In a reference to one of Weld's most famous shenanigans, Chacon asked, "What will she do next for a gimmick: Jump into the Charles?"

Patrick made no public appearances yesterday, savoring a commanding lead in the polls. Senator John F . Kerry canceled his scheduled weekend appearances with Patrick following the controversy over Kerry's remark that underachieving students would end up "stuck in Iraq."

A CBS4 poll released yesterday showed Patrick holding a 21-point lead over Healey, 55 percent to 34 percent. Independent Christy Mihos had 6 percent, and Green-Rainbow Party candidate Grace Ross had 3 percent, the poll said.

Yesterday morning, Healey campaigned at the A-1 Deli in Haverhill, where she greeted customers eating oatmeal and eggs and a few dozen supporters who gathered to cheer her on.

"I prefer grass-roots campaigning, where you can actually talk to people," she said. "And I'm out here getting my volunteers organized. Trust me, these folks are long-term serious campaigners, and they know how to turn out the vote."

Weld's return to Massachusetts followed a disastrous run for governor of New York this year. He dropped out of the race after some party leaders threw their support behind John Faso, a former member of the state Assembly.

During his 15-minute appearance, Weld seemed to enjoy the spotlight, introducing himself to the press corps by saying: "Hello, everybody. My name is Bill Weld, and I'm happy to see all of you."

Asked what he thought about Romney, Weld suggested he was doing well, at least in his budding campaign for the White House.

"As to Governor Romney, all I can tell you is he is doing great on the national scene," Weld said. "He is on fire."

But isn't he hurting Healey, a reporter asked.

"OK," Weld said, throwing up his hands. "You told me. I didn't tell you."

He was by turns feisty, pensive, and light-hearted. Asked what he thought in July when a woman was killed in a Big Dig tunnel, Weld lowered his head. He looked ashen and inhaled deeply before responding. "That's just a total disaster," he said.

With Healey by his side, Weld made clear that, while he likes Massachusetts, he has no plans to run for office here again.

"I wouldn't come back here for political reasons," Weld said with a smile. "But it's a nice place to live."

Lisa Wangsness and Rick Klein of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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