Magic Carpet Ride

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We New Yorkers love our transients. Many people from around the country – and around the world – still put faith in that musical line – "if I can make it there, I can make it anywhere." They come for fame, for fortune, for acclaim. And we don’t begrudge those who come after us.

Politicians are no exception. And now William Weld wants to take advantage of that Empire State acceptance.

Weld’s political bones were made in Massachusetts. He led that state’s government just after Michael Dukakis and left only after a failed attempt to unseat Massachusetts Senator John Kerry.

In 2000, a few years after he was rebuffed by the Senate to be ambassador to Mexico by the right-wing of the Republican Party, the ex-Republican governor of Massachusetts moved back to New York.

Five years later, he wants a public life renewed. Only in the Empire State.

And why not.

Bobby Kennedy showed him the way. The Massachusetts resident moved to New York State in 1964 after his brother’s assassination and began his own elected political career. He wasn’t going to seek the Massachusetts Senate seat held by his brother, Ted. So he took up residence in New York and challenged the incumbent Republican Kenneth Keating.

Keating said he would happy to furnish Kennedy with a New York road map and bashed the interloper for his newcomer status at every turn. Keating initially whittled away at Kennedy’s star power – but in a year when Democratic presidential candidate Lyndon Johnson trounced Barry Goldwater, Kennedy would not be beaten.

Twenty-six years later the stakes were raised higher. The First Lady of the United States, a woman who lived in the White House, took up residence in Westchester County, New York and announced she was running for the U.S. Senate.

But I guess by then the carpet bagging status meant so much less that Hillary Clinton could walk on the stage of an Albany statehouse reporters’ variety/satire show carrying a carpetbag – as a joke.

My guess is that Weld probably doesn’t give the charge "carpetbagger" a second thought.

Of course, it’s not just New York City cosmopolitans who must accept an outsider. Upstate New York has to get behind such a candidate too. But upstaters didn’t seem to mind that Hillary hardly opened up her moving boxes before her run.

Just listen to the New York State Republican Chairman Steve Minarik – a Rochester guy – talk about Weld and the potential for a carpetbagger label: "Carpetbagger would be a legitimate issue. But Bill weld was born and raised in New York. He lived the first 26 years of his life in New York…He understands what we believe in and what we need is a leader right now in New York State."

And so another magic carpet ride in New York electoral politics is underway.

© Copyright 2005, WXXI

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