William F. Weld, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts, formally announced his candidacy for president on Monday, becoming the first Republican to launch a primary challenge against President Trump.
In a statement, Weld, 73, said “the voices of the American people are being ignored and our nation is suffering.”
“It is time to return to the principles of Lincoln — equality, dignity, and opportunity for all,” Weld said. “There is no greater cause on earth than to preserve what truly makes America great. I am ready to lead that fight.”
Weld, who formed an exploratory committee in February, has accused Trump of praising authoritarian leaders, humiliating allies, and railing against the rule of law. He has compared Trump’s immigration policies to Kristallnacht, the 1938 Nazi rampage that destroyed Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues.
Weld was known for his fiscally conservative, socially moderate agenda as a popular Republican governor in Massachusetts from 1991 to 1997. A longtime supporter of abortion and gay rights, Weld endorsed Barack Obama in 2008 and in 2016 declared himself a “libertarian for life,” leaving the Republican Party to become the Libertarian vice presidential nominee.
In the waning days of that campaign, he praised the Democratic nominee, going on TV to declare, “I’m here vouching for Mrs. Clinton.”
In a campaign video that accompanied Monday’s announcement, Weld described Massachusetts in 1990, the year before Weld became governor, as “a state near bankruptcy” run by a “corrupt Democratic machine.” The spot also features a “Taxachusetts” reference, frames Weld as a crime fighter, and highlights his appointment as US attorney by President Ronald Reagan.
Weld’s move makes Trump the first incumbent president since George H.W. Bush in 1992 to face a notable primary challenge.
The Republican National Committee in January issued a nonbinding resolution to declare the party’s undivided support for Trump.
A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Weld challenged John Kerry in a bid for the US Senate during the 1990s. He has run for the governorship of New York and tried to become ambassador to Mexico. He has also dabbled in novel writing and joined the board of Acreage Holdings, a cannabis investment firm.
He and his wife, Leslie, live in Canton, according to the campaign. Between them, they have eight children and eight grandchildren.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Michael Levenson of the Globe staff contributed to his report. Danny McDonald can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.