Brewtown Politico

Carrying a little stick and speaking loudly in Milwaukee


Tonight, we shift our focus to Rhode Island where Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) faces re-election in 2006. Chafee is one of those northeastern moderates, or RINOs as the right wing likes to say. He's enjoyed support from his home state after taking over the seat from his late father Sen. John Chafee.

These days, however, Lincoln Chafee is looking at a tough re-election fight next year against a yet unnamed Democratic opponent. While Chafee often votes with Democrats on issues like the environment, abortion, and fiscal sanity, he's been unwilling to change parties. In past years, it may have been less of an issue, but with Democrats out of power, Chafee is one seat standing in the way of them retaking control of the Senate.

When I worked on the Hill, I had a chance to meet Chafee and thought him to be a nice enough guy and I respected his independence when it came to his positions on issues. I remember reading that one reason he had stayed with the Republican party despite its shift to the right was that his family has had a long legacy of involvement in the party. Considering that he's serving in his father's former seat, I can imagine that would be a decision he wouldn't take lightly. Having said that, today's Republican party is not the party it was when Chafee's father served. There are even rumors the party may run another candidate in the Republican primary to oppose Chafee.

On the Democratic side, the speculation currently is that Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) will seek the Senate seat. If Chafee wants to retain it, his best hope at this point is probably to either become a Democrat or pull a Jeffords and become an independent and caucus with the Democrats.


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