SPEARFISH | Bill Weld strolled into a lower-level meeting room in the Black Hills State University Student Union on Thursday looking more like the grandparent of a college student, and not like a former Massachusetts governor running to be vice president of the United States.
But there was Weld in Spearfish on Thursday — appearing during a presidential election year when it seems truly anything can happen — wearing a brown jacket, jeans and work boots. The candidate who is part of the Libertarian ticket leaned back in a chair to lay out the vision of the party led by his running mate, presidential hopeful Gary Johnson.
More than 100 students, faculty, and others greeted Weld, who will visit Rapid City today.
In his remarks, Weld pushed the Libertarian Party’s principles of fiscal conservatism and social inclusion. He made the point that his party's views stand in stark contrast to Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“Trump has gone against everything the Republican Party, the Party of Lincoln, has stood for,” Weld said. “The Democrats have just gotten into the practice of spending way too much money,” he added.
Johnson, at the top of the Libertarian ticket, is a former New Mexico governor who was born in North Dakota and raised in Aberdeen. He teamed with longtime friend and colleague Weld, a two-term Massachusetts governor, as standard-bearers of the party’s tenets of less-intrusive government, lower taxes and a balanced national budget and decriminalization of drug laws.
The candidates have appeared on video billboards in Rapid City recently, urging people to select them and skip the major party candidates. Weld told students that the growing national debt directly threatens their future.
“In this room, it’ll will be the students, the next generation I’m looking at right now, who will get the bill if someone doesn’t go down to Washington and start acting in a responsible fashion,” he said.
As a young attorney in 1972, Weld worked with Hillary Clinton, then Rodham Clinton, in researching the case for President Richard Nixon’s impeachment for the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.
He cited his experience as a prosecuting attorney in defending Clinton’s controversial use of a personal email server during her time as President Barack Obama’s Secretary of State.
Republicans and Trump have repeatedly assailed Clinton's use of the server as a criminal act, putting classified material at risk.
“I think the Justice Department got that one right,” Weld said. “It didn’t scream criminal intent to me at all.”
Weld said the party platform plank calling for the legalization and regulation of marijuana and the treatment of drug addiction as a disease and not a criminal issue is an acknowledgment that the war on drugs has been an expensive failure.
Weld said his party’s support of the Second Amendment right to bear arms also includes opposition of a ban on assault-style weapons and large magazines.
“We’d just be creating another class of criminals and we don’t need more criminals,” he said.
Weld said he and Johnson make a good team for the White House, bringing years of executive experience, as two-term Republican governors elected in Democratic states.
“The combination of our approaches, which is fiscally conservative, socially inclusive and welcoming to all comers, is an appealing combination that describes about 60 percent of the United States,” he said. “Our pitch is to say voters should think for themselves instead of listening to someone from Washington who is trying to brainwash them, and they should vote for us."
Former Republican state senator Stan Adelstein of Rapid City introduced Weld, saying that the Libertarian ticket has a chance to carry South Dakota in the Nov. 8 presidential race, “if everyone listens to their message,” he said.
The Johnson-Weld campaign claims on its website to have raised $1.13 million in October with goals of garnering five percent of the popular vote or taking just one major battleground state to prevent either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump from getting to 270 electoral votes on Nov. 8.
Weld stopped in Sioux Falls on Wednesday, stumping for Johnson and the Libertarian ticket at Augustana College.