One State's Independent Streak

The former senator, with Ned Lamont in Connecticut, bounced back after 1988 defeat.
The former senator, with Ned Lamont in Connecticut, bounced back after 1988 defeat. (By Douglas Healey -- Associated Press)
By Linton Weeks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 10, 2006

A three-term senator in Connecticut is defeated in his race for a fourth term. He abandons his party and runs as an independent. Sound familiar?

It happened in 1988 when Republican Lowell Weicker lost to Democratic challenger Joe Lieberman. Weicker walked away from the GOP, ran for governor as an independent in 1990 and won.

In politics, what goes around comes around, and now an eerily similar scenario is playing out for Lieberman, a three-term senator who lost on Tuesday in Connecticut's Democratic Senate primary to Ned Lamont. Lieberman says he will now run for the Senate in November as an independent.

Who would know better what it's like to run as an independent in that neck of the woods than Weicker?

Looking back on his independent candidacy, "my troubles were pretty clear," Weicker says from his home in Essex, Conn.

He says that his role in the Watergate investigation and his opposition to certain Reagan administration spending cuts "teed off a lot of Republicans."

But he says there were still enough moderate Republicans and Democrats to elect him governor.

Scott Overland, a spokesman for the Lieberman campaign, says his boss believes "deep in his heart" that he is the one person running for the Senate who can represent all of Connecticut's citizens and that he wants a chance to be reelected by all the voters.

Overland says that Lieberman has shown his independence by taking a stand on the Iraq war "that didn't help him politically."

"He believes it was the right thing to do," he says.

In 35 years of public service, Overland continues, Lieberman has built bonds with people of all political parties in the state. He says that Connecticut has shown it can elect an independent candidate. His example: Lowell Weicker.

Weicker, 75, says of Lieberman, "You have to take a look at the origins of his candidacy. And of mine. I made a decision, persuaded by Republicans, to run. But only to run as an independent."

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