With Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) announcing Wednesday that he will not run for reelection in 2012, plenty of members of his old party and liberal commentators are happy to see the Democrat-turned-Independent go.
But at least one Democrat is sorry to hear the Connecticut lawmaker's decision -- Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.).
Lieberman may have left the party after losing the Senate Democratic primary in 2006 -- he was reelected anyway as an Independent -- and he may have backed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the 2008 presidential race. But he was also the Senate's leading advocate for D.C. voting rights, and that earned him very warm words from Norton.
"The people of the District of Columbia have no senator of their own, but they have had in Senator Joe Lieberman an unfailing champion of their rights," Norton said in a press release. "Senator Lieberman has been the lead sponsor of virtually every bill for our rights since I have been a Member of the House. As conditions allowed, he was always there for this city, first for statehood, then for seats in the House and Senate, and finally for the House vote. Beyond sponsorship, Joe Lieberman has been our chief advocate and strategist in the Senate."
Lieberman helped lead the fight for voting rights in the last Congress, when a measure granting the District a full House member actually passed the Senate with 61 votes before stalling in the House. "It's time to right this injustice, just as this Congress historically has righted so many other voting injustices that stretched back to the very founding of our nation," Lieberman said on the Senate floor in 2009.
Norton and Lieberman didn't always see eye to eye on local matters. Lieberman was also a strong advocate for the District's Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides money for low-income students to attend private schools, while Norton has supported allowing the program to end. Obviously, they also disagreed on some national issues: Norton backed Obama in 2008, as did 92 percent of her fellow District residents, and Lieberman was also a strong supporter of the war in Iraq that Norton opposed.
Yet his voting rights advocacy was enough for Norton to say Wednesday that Lieberman "will have the abiding appreciation of the citizens of the nation's capital, who will never forget his principled determination to help deliver them from second-class citizenship in their own country."