“It’s not my party any more,” he said.
In his seven-year tenure in the Senate, Chafee frequently split from his party on key legislation. He opposed the war in Iraq, voted with Democrats on estate tax and HMO regulation legislation and refused to support the confirmation of U.N. Ambassador John Bolton.
In the past, Chafee had insisted that he would remain in the Republican Party. But he did not endorse President Bush for re-election in 2004, and faced a fierce primary challenge from his right in last year’s Senate race.
Chafee and his father, former Sen. John Chafee, held Rhode Island’s Senate seat in Republican hands for 30 years. National Republicans poured money into the state last year to aid Chafee’s re-election, but he lost to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).