When established pols run as independents, their previous party usually has to worry about losing a lot of voters from their nominated candidate. In Connecticut, Joe Lieberman got enough Democrats away from Ned Lamont (and plenty of Republicans) to keep his Senate seat after a netroots-inspired primary challenge lost him the Democratic nomination. In Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter may face a similar decision.
Both Specter and Lieberman have a record of voting with their party more often than not, however. That wasn’t the case with their former colleague, Lincoln Chafee, who now wants to make an independent bid for governor of Rhode Island:
As previously speculated, former Republican senator Lincoln Chafee has formed an exploratory committee to run for governor of Rhode Island – as an independent.
“Chafee will spend the next several months meeting with advisers and supporters putting together a plan that will lay the groundwork for an Independent campaign for governor in 2010,” according to a statement released by his campaign.
Chafee has a storied name in Rhode Island politics – his father, John, represented the state in the Senate for 23 years. But Chafee disaffiliated from the Republican party in 2006 after facing loud opposition from conservative Republicans over his moderate-to-liberal voting record in the Senate. He won the primary, but lost to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) in the general election
A Chafee candidacy would complicate the gubernatorial field, and could potentially pick off enough Democrats and moderate Republicans to forge a potent coalition.
If he gets any votes at all, they’ll be Democrats. Republicans in Rhode Island still remember his election-night dig at the party, claiming that he would have switched parties after having Republicans support him in the general election. They can also recall Chafee’s voting record, in which he voted more often with Democrats than Republicans. In the 107th and 108th sessions, according to the Poole reports, Chafee voted less with the GOP than any Republican, including Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, and Jumpin’ Jim Jeffords in the 107th.
Why primarily Democrats? Chafee is pro-abortion, pro-hEsc research, anti-ANWR, pro-death tax, anti-Bush tax cuts, pro-gun control, pro-minimum wage increases. He’s so pro-abortion that he opposed the ban on partial-birth abortions. Many Democrats aren’t this loyal to the party line.
I’m not sure what has pushed Chafee into another run at politics, anyway. Rhode Islanders made it pretty clear that he had exhausted whatever cachet his last name had in the state by 2006. He has no particular accomplishments in the Senate other than occupy his dad’s seat. He only won the one election, after getting a 1999 appointment to fill the rest of his father’s term after John Chafee’s death. I doubt he’ll win another.