Lincoln Chafee has been a Republican U.S. senator and an independent governor and now is taking a shot at the presidency, as a Democrat.
Chafee announced his bid in a speech in Arlington, Va., at George Mason University on Wednesday. In his speech, Chafee said, “I enjoy challenges, and certainly we have many facing America. Today I’m formally entering the race for the Democratic nomination for president.”
During his speech, Chafee highlighted his strong opposition to military intervention in the Middle East, saying, “we have to find a way to wage peace.” He said drone strikes weren’t working in the region. And he also said, “We must deliberately and carefully extricate ourselves from expensive wars,” Chafee said. “Just think of how better this money could be spent.”
Chafee stressed using that money for investment within America’s borders. “Education infrastructure, healthcare, environmental stewardship and a strong middle class are Americans’ priorities.”
Chafee’s political evolution has been gradual. He is the son of the late Rhode Island Senator John Chafee, a moderate Republican, and was appointed in 1999 to succeed his father. He won the seat on his own the next year. He was ranked the most liberal Republican in the Senate. He was the only GOP senator to vote against authorizing the use of force in Iraq, and supported abortion rights.
He also said he did not vote to re-elect President George W. Bush in 2004, instead casting a write-in vote for Bush’s father.
His deviation from party orthodoxy brought him a primary challenge in 2006, which Chafee survived, but he then lost to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse in the general election. Chafee announced he was leaving the GOP the next year.
In 2010, he ran for governor of Rhode Island as an independent, and won election in a four-way contest. In 2012 he became a Democrat, and then decided not to seek re-election as governor.
He recently told Time magazine that he intends to make Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton’s vote to support the Iraq war a focal point in his presidential campaign:
” ‘We’re still paying for it,’ he said, saying the war will end up costing the country $6 trillion. ‘We’re paying for it financially in taking care of our brave veterans … but we’re also paying for it overseas … The repair work goes on. It’s relevant to today.’ ”
Chafee’s background is as unusual as his many political incarnations. Before entering politics, Chafee worked as a farrier at harness race tracks.