U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman

Official web site


Lieberman’s speech to the 2008 Republican National Convention

Election history: Lieberman was elected to the U.S. Senate as a Democrat in 1988, unseating Republican Lowell P. Weicker Jr. with 50 percent of the vote. He was re-elected in 1994, 2000 and 2006. In his last race, he won as a petitioning candidate after losing the Democratic nomination.

Lieberman was elected to the state Senate in 1970, lost a race for an open U.S. House seat in 1980, and was elected state attorney general in 1982.

He is retiring when his term expires in January 2013.

2006 general election

Joseph I. Lieberman (*CFL) 564,095 50 percent
Ned Lamont (D) 450,844 40 percent
Alan Schlesinger (R) 109,198 10 percent
Timothy A. Knibbs (**CC) 4,638 0 percent
Ralph A. Ferrucci (***G) 5,922 1 percent

*Connecticut For Lieberman, **Concerned Citizens, *** Green

2006 Democratic primary:

Joseph I. Lieberman 136,490 48 percent
Ned Lamont 146,404 52 percent

Campaign finance: Lieberman spent $19 million to Lamont’s $20.5 million in what was far and away Connecticut’s most expensive race.

Background: Joe Lieberman debuted as a candidate in 1970 as a reliably liberal antiwar Democrat seeking a state Senate seat in New Haven, helped by a platoon of volunteers from Yale that included a young law student named Bill Clinton. Lieberman began 2010 as one of the most enigmatic figures in politics, a man forever prompting the question: What makes Joe tick?

It’s the question that was asked in early 2008, when he went to New Hampshire on a snowy morning to endorse Republican John McCain for president. And when he flew to St. Paul, Minn., in the summer to help open the Republican National Convention with a prime-time speech extolling McCain and undercutting Barack Obama. And again when he repeatedly threatened to scuttle the top priority of President Obama and Senate Democrats: health reform.

He finally relented on health reform, but not before an enraged U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, called for his recall, a constitutional impossibility in Connecticut. In a New York Times magazine piece, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused Lieberman of blindsiding him by suddenly insisting that he could not support allowing younger recipients to buy into Medicare, a charge Lieberman denied. His high-profile role in the health-care debate coincided with a 10-point drop in his Quinnipiac University poll approval rating, from 49 percent in November to 39 percent in January.

To the many bloggers and pundits who delight in psychoanalyzing the junior senator from the Connecticut, the answer to Lieberman’s behavior is a simple case of revenge on Democrats for the reversal of fortune he experienced from 2000 to 2006. A Google search of “lieberman revenge” returned 1.95 million hits, returning everything from pieces in the American Conservative to the New York Observer to a collection of web letters in The Nation in response to the question, “What I’d Like to Say to Lieberman.”

In 2000, Lieberman achieved iconic status as Al Gore’s running mate and the first Jew on a major presidential ticket. But his support for the war in Iraq doomed his own bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, then jeopardized his re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2006.

Any chance Lieberman had of avoiding a challenge for the Democratic Senate nomination seemed to evaporate in November 2005, when he tried to tamp down anti-war fever with a Wall Street Journal op-ed, “Our Troops Must Stay.” The piece still is available on his Senate web site. A month later, Ned Lamont was starting to organize an anti-war challenge to Lieberman.

Lieberman lost a Democratic primary to Lamont, then won the general election as a petitioning candidate. The day after his victory, Lieberman announced he would organize with the Democrats, giving them 51 members — the bare minimum necessary to control the Senate. But his vote came with a caveat. He now was a self-described “Independent Democrat,” a term whose meaning became clear in 2008.

Not only did he endorse McCain, Lieberman became a high-profile campaign surrogate whom McCain considered naming as his running mate. After addressing the RNC, Lieberman dropped by the Connecticut delegation, calling them “my base.” Connecticut Democrats tried to organize a censure vote by the Democratic State Central Committee, but that fizzled after the 2008 election when a pragmatic Obama publicly argued against stripping Lieberman of his party chairmanship.

Once again, Lieberman’s vote was crucial. This time, he was the 60th vote necessary for Democrats to fend off filibusters.

Lieberman is up for re-election in the presidential election year of 2012, when he presumably would be on the same ballot with Obama. No prominent Democrat in Connecticut takes seriously the possibility that Lieberman would seek re-election as a Democrat, though the senator refused to rule it out in 2009 when a reporter asked about his estrangement from the Connecticut Democratic Party.

“It’s a hell of a question. And I’d say there are a lot of options, and I really don’t know,” Lieberman said. “I have not foreclosed any of the options – the three being Democrat, Republican or independent.”

Despite his knack for annoying Democrats, ratings compiled by the Almanac of American Politics showed that Lieberman had a liberal voting record 59 percent of the time in 2008 and 58 percent of the time in 2007. He voted to cap greenhouse gases, raise gas-mileage standards, expand health coverage for poor children and oppose making English the official language. And in 2010, his high-profile efforts included legislation repealing the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on gays serving openly in the military and a partnership with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., to tackle climate change.

Committees: Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (chairman), Armed Services, Small Business

Education: B.A., Yale University; L.L.B., Yale University

2008 Financial Disclosure: Lieberman had a net worth between $935,081 and $3,176,000, ranking him 49th in the Senate, based on a review of his financial disclosure statement by the Center for Responsive Politics.

To view a full report of his investments, click here.