BOSTON (AP) — Former Gov. William Weld endorsed fellow Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown on Friday, portraying him as a moderate and independent lawmaker.
Weld, who served as governor from 1991 to 1997, appeared with Brown at his campaign headquarters in Boston and praised him for showing a willingness to cross the political aisle on critical votes and stand up to his own party.
He pointed to a letter Brown sent to the head of the Republican National Committee before the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla., in August. In the letter, Brown, who describes himself as "pro-choice", asked the party to be more inclusive of others in the party who hold similar views on abortion rights.
Brown declined to take the fight to the convention floor, however, saying it was up to other moderate Republicans to join forces. The party, at the convention, emphatically approved a platform that would ban all abortions, and Democrats criticized it as "draconian" and "extreme."
Weld said he and Brown "both believe we need to be a big tent party."
"We need to be firm in our commitment to low taxes and less government spending and support for free enterprise and the private sector," he said. "At the same time, we recognize there are many different opinions on social issues, and we need to be respectful and open to those points of view."
Brown praised Weld as a social moderate with a "famous independent streak."
Weld's endorsement is critical for Brown as he reaches out to conservative and Democratic voters.
Brown's challenger, Democrat Elizabeth Warren, campaigned Friday with Caroline Kennedy and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino at a senior housing complex in the city's Charlestown neighborhood. Kennedy said Warren will follow in the political footsteps of her late uncle Sen. Edward Kennedy.
"I know that in the United States Senate, Elizabeth will fight for seniors, for middle-class families just like my Uncle Teddy did," Kennedy said.
Warren, a Harvard Law School professor and consumer advocate, said she worked with Sen. Kennedy on issues from pensions to medical bankruptcy. Warren also includes Joseph Kennedy III, the Democratic candidate in the state's open 4th Congressional District, among her former students.
"I was privileged to be able to work with the senator for about 15 years, and it was always about issues about working families," Warren said. "The senator would say, 'What can we do to make it a little easier for working families?'"
Kennedy's death from brain cancer in 2009 forced the special election in early 2010 that propelled Brown into the Senate.
Brown and Warren also weighed in Friday on reports that the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent last month, dropping below 8 percent for the first time in nearly four years.
Brown said there are still too many people looking for work.
"Even though the jobs numbers today are better, we still had less people hired this month than last month," Brown said.
Warren said the numbers are a "step in the right direction."
"I'd be more encouraged if the Republicans would work with the Democrats to try to put more people back to work," she said.
Also Friday, members of a union representing asbestos workers delivered to a Brown aide a letter faulting the senator for a new political ad that targets Warren's role in a complex U.S. Supreme Court case involving a mining company that set up a trust fund for victims of asbestos poisoning.
Brown has said Warren was paid nearly $250,000 by Travelers Insurance to help defend the company against asbestos poisoning settlements. The ad says Warren helped Travelers restrict payments to victims of asbestos poisoning and the results were disastrous for victims.
Warren's campaign has called Brown's allegations false and misleading.
Warren, a bankruptcy expert, argued in the 2009 Supreme Court case that Travelers should be protected from future lawsuits from victims because such suits would prevent similar trusts from being created, making it impossible for all victims to be paid.
Francis Boudrow, business manager for the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers Union, Local 6, demanded Brown take down the ads, calling them "inaccurate and insensitive" and saying they're particularly troubling for families that have lost loved ones to mesothelioma, a cancer attributable to asbestos exposure.
"These families have suffered ... and for him to keep bringing this up is offensive," Boudrow added. "He's lying. He's flat out misrepresenting the facts."
Brown's campaign said Boudrow is a Democrat who contributed money to Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick. Campaign finance reports show Boudrow gave Patrick's campaign $25 in 2010.