Liberal Republican Chafee Wins Party’s Nomination

Published November 1, 2006

With help from the Bush administration, whose initiatives he has repeatedly snubbed, Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R) won the Republican Party nomination against a fiscal conservative challenger in the state’s September 12 primary election.

Associated Press reporter Robert Tanner noted Chafee’s primary win over Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey “was notable in a year that saw moderates from each party lose primaries to hard-line candidates.”

The politics of the race were strange indeed, as Chafee thanked Democratic-leaning independents for supporting him while he also received backing from the Bush administration.

Chafee has opposed Bush on the Iraq war, tax cuts, and environmental legislation. The pro-growth and limited government organization Club for Growth backed Laffey. Club for Growth Executive Director David Keating said, “There is enthusiasm for taking on pro-tax, pro-spending incumbents, regardless of party affiliation.”

Support for ‘Potted Plants’

First Lady Laura Bush campaigned for Chafee despite his opposition to the president’s policies.

“Most of the firepower for Chafee came from the National Republican Senatorial committee,” Keating said. “Republicans back incumbents. The incumbent could be a potted plant, and if it is a Republican potted plant, they’ll back it.”

On the whole, said Keating, he has been pleased with primary election results. Club for Growth-supported candidates this year have won nine of 13 races, he said.

Chafee will face off against Democratic nominee Sheldon Whitehouse, a former attorney general, in the November election.

Steve Stanek