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Swift kick
BY SETH GITELL

TUESDAY, MARCH 19, 2002 — Call it the Kiss of Death. I refer to the news that former governor William Weld gave his support to Governor Jane Swift, as reported in the off-lead story in today’s Boston Globe. No sooner did the Globe story hit the newsstands, than the Associated Press reported that Swift will drop out of the race today. A press conference is scheduled for noon today at the State House. The story looked especially bad coming on the very day when former Salt Lake City Olympics president Mitt Romney planned to announce his candidacy for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

"Governor Swift has my unequivocal support and admiration," Weld told the Globe’s Frank Phillips. "I stand four-square behind her bid for re-election." That’s the best the Swift team could do — a warmed-over statement from a washed-up former governor who now lives in Manhattan.

Weld, after all, has become something of a joke in the Commonwealth — thanks, in part, to one of his former speechwriters, Robert Byrnes, whose new book, Brush with the Law (Renaissance Books) recounts his own drunken trysts in the governor’s office and crack-smoking during law school. Indeed, one of the reasons Weld was around town so much last month was less to promote his book than to finalize his divorce — a perfectly legitimate reason, of course, but it did nothing to counteract the former governor's diminished image.

Swift’s decision to drop out means the Weld era is finally over. Romney, who has kept his policy positions close to the vest, is not expected to continue the Weld-Cellucci-Swift legacy of social liberalism. For all her political faults, Swift, whose running mate, Patrick Guerriero (what happens to him now?) is gay, has carried forward what in other parts of the country would be considered a progressive social agenda.

But Swift’s departure also means that the Republican Party is now free from the corruptive influence of those most complicit in the fiscal mismanagement of the state since the 1990s. I speak of the Big Dig, a project billions of dollars over budget — a fact that both Weld and Cellucci concealed from the public. Weld — knowing that the massive construction project was going to cost a lot more than projected — cynically removed Newton toll booths on the Mass Turnpike in the run-up to his electoral challenge to Senator John Kerry in 1996. And nobody in the governor’s office has had the courage to stand up to Bechtel, the Big Dig general contractor. Given his experience in Salt Lake City, Romney — unlike Swift — can make the case that he's up to straightening it all out. But only if the Democrats let him slip by without making clear where he stands on the social issues that are also important to Massachusetts voters.

Did Swift save her reputation in the knick of time? Voice your opinion here in the Phoenix Forum.

Issue Date: March 19, 2002
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