For almost seven years, Bill Weld carried the flag for Massachusetts Republicans in the governor’s office, starting a 16-year reign of GOP chief executives on Beacon Hill that lasted until 2007.
The Canton Republican still holds the state's gubernatorial record for largest margin of victory in his 1994 landslide re-election, losing just five towns. And he was the MassGOP's nominee for U.S. Senate in 1996 when he mounted a serious campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. John Kerry.
But if Weld is going to appear on the March 3 presidential Republican primary ballot in his home state, it will be no thanks to the political party he once led.
He’ll have Secretary of State William Galvin, a Democrat, to credit, instead.
Galvin has given all four political parties in Massachusetts -- including the Democratic, Republican, Green-Rainbow and Libertarian parties -- until Friday to submit a list of candidates they want to appear on their Super Tuesday primary ballots.
The lists are one of three ways a candidate can qualify for the presidential ballot in Massachusetts, and the MassGOP on Thursday submitted only the name of incumbent President Trump.
"Having a sitting President as the only name on the potential candidate list is not unprecedented, and is in fact, an established procedure," MassGOP Chair Jim Lyons wrote.
A spokeswoman for Galvin told the News Service on Tuesday that if that were to happen the secretary intended to put Weld's name on the ballot himself.
Weld, who briefly left the Republican Party in 2016 to run as the vice presidential nominee on the Libertarian ticket, is mounting a long-shot primary challenge to President Trump, hoping to damage the incumbent in the process.
The former governor has predicted dire consequences for the Republican Party if Trump is not impeached and removed from office, a message that runs counter to Lyons's support for the president.
Weld spokesman Joe Hunter told the News Service Wednesday that the campaign was in contact with the MassGOP, but would pursue "whichever of the three avenues to the ballot is the most appropriate."
"We are working on ballot access in numerous states on a daily basis, and of course, Massachusetts is at the top of the list," Hunter said.
State law allows the secretary of state to unilaterally put a candidate on the primary ballot if they have determined the candidate to be "generally advocated or recognized in national news media throughout the United States."
The latest WBUR poll of New Hampshire Republicans had the former Massachusetts governor trailing the president with 9 percent of the vote. Trump led Weld 82 percent to 18 percent in an Emerson College poll of Massachusetts Republicans from April.
"I've already had a conversation with Mr. Lyons about this, and I told him that we had done our review and we thought Mr. Weld, as well as a former Congressman from Illinois, were national candidates," Galvin told the News Service on Thursday.
In addition to Weld, the secretary was referring to former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh. There's a fourth potential candidate - Roque de la Fuente - who Galvin said he does not consider to be a nationally recognized candidate who will likely have to turn in 2,500 signatures if he wants to qualify for the GOP primary. De la Fuentes ran as a Democrat in 2016 when he also took the signature route to the ballot.
A spokesman for the Democratic Party said they intended to submit their list to Galvin's office on Friday, and would not provide an early tally of the names that will be on it.
According to Galvin's office, the campaigns of entrepreneur Andrew Yang and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard have both taken out nomination papers in an "abundance of caution," but it is expected they will be on the Democratic Party's list and will not have to return signatures.
Galvin also said he had spoken to Democratic Party Chairman Gus Bickford about Galvin's belief that Michael Bloomberg should be on the list, even though he was a Republican when he served as mayor of New York City.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that Bickford is going to put him on, I don’t think, but I don’t know with Bickford either,” Galvin said.
Lyons said that during an incumbent presidency neither political party has submitted names other than that of the sitting president seeking re-election.
"We will follow set protocol and do the same, as has been done before in 2012 under Democratic President Barack Obama and in 2004 under Republican President George W. Bush," Lyons wrote.
Both Obama and Bush ran virtually unopposed in their re-election bids by any nationally known figures with the stature of someone like Weld.
But in 1992, MassGOP Chairman Leon Lombardi only put forward the name of President George H.W. Bush for the ballot, despite the incumbent being challenged by conservative commentator Pat Buchanan. Buchanan did end up getting onto the Massachusetts primary ballot that year, and won almost 75,000 votes, or 28 percent.
The parties, by law, have until Jan. 3 to submit their lists, but Galvin said he's following the same timeline he used during the last cycle in order to prepare ballots ahead of the Jan. 18 deadline to make them available to military and overseas voters.
Galvin plans to hold a drawing to determine the order of placement on the ballots on Dec. 20, and candidates have until Jan. 10 to withdraw and have their names removed.
Tom Mountain, a Trump campaign spokesman in Massachusetts and New Hampshire and a member of the MassGOP state committee, has previously said that Weld should give up on his campaign.
"If he has any dignity he should ride off into the sunset," Mountain told the News Service last month after Weld held an event to call for Trump's impeachment. "No one is taking Bill Weld seriously except Bill Weld."
Gov. Charlie Baker suggested recently that he thought the Republican primary in Massachusetts would be a low-turnout affair with or without Weld on the ballot.
When discussing whether to schedule a special election for a state Senate seat on the same day as the primaries, Baker said, "I think having a general election for a state Senate seat on the same day as a presidential primary when you have numerous candidates running on one side, and for all intents and purposes, one and maybe two depending upon how the secretary of state puts the ballot together, on the other doesn't really give voters an opportunity to tune in on the state Senate race, which is what I would like to see them do in that race."
Baker has described Weld as a political mentor, but so far has declined to endorse his former boss over Trump, who he didn’t vote for in 2016 and has frequently disagreed with.