Chafee May Defect From GOP

Lincoln Chafee headshot, as US Senator of Rhode Island 2004 AP

Two days after losing a bid for a second term, Sen. Lincoln Chafee said he was unsure whether he would remain a Republican.

Chafee lost to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse in a race seen as a referendum on President Bush and the GOP. On Thursday, he was asked whether he would stick with the Republican Party or become an independent or Democrat.

"I haven't made any decisions. I just haven't even thought about where my place is," Chafee said at a news conference. When pressed on whether his comments indicated he might leave the GOP, he replied: "That's fair."

Chafee, 53, is a lifelong Republican who has represented Rhode Island for seven years. His father held the same seat for 23 years before that.

He is the most liberal Republican in the Senate and was the sole Senate Republican to vote against the war in Iraq. But that was not enough to prevail against Whitehouse, who shared many of Chafee's views but was a Democrat in a heavily Democratic state.

Chafee said he has not decided what to do after leaving office, but he hoped to stay involved in public life. He said his loss may have helped the country by switching control of Congress.

"The people have spoken all across America. They want the Democrats and Republicans to work together," he said. "I think the president now is going to have to talk to the Democrats. I think that's going to be good for America."

Chafee said he waged a lonely campaign to bring the party to the middle. He described attending weekly lunches with fellow GOP senators and standing up to argue his point of view, often alone.

"There were times walking into my caucus room where it wasn't fun," he said, adding that he stayed with the GOP largely because it helped him bring federal dollars home to Rhode Island.
  • Jennifer Hoar

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