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Lincoln Chafee

In office
November 2, 1999 – January 3, 2007
Preceded by John Chafee
Succeeded by Sheldon Whitehouse

Born March 26, 1953 (1953-03-26) (age 56)
Providence, Rhode Island
Nationality American
Political party Republican (while in office)
Independent (currently)
Spouse(s) Stephanie Chafee
Residence Warwick, Rhode Island
Alma mater Brown University
Occupation Politician, Farrier
Religion Episcopalian

Lincoln Davenport Chafee (pronounced /ˈtʃeɪ fiː/ CHAY-fee; born March 26, 1953) is a former United States Senator from Rhode Island. Running as a Republican, he lost his re-election bid in 2006 to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse. In the summer of 2007, he left the Republican Party and became an independent.[1] He is currently a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies.

A Rhode Island native educated at Phillips Academy and Brown University, Chafee worked as a professional farrier for seven years before entering state politics in 1985. He was a delegate to the Rhode Island State Constitutional Convention, a member of the Warwick, Rhode Island city council, and later the mayor of Warwick. Chafee was appointed to the United States Senate in 1999 upon the death of his father, Senator John Chafee, and in 2000 was elected to a full six-year term.

Chafee was a supporter of Barack Obama's 2008 presidential bid.

On January 4, 2010 Chafee declared his intentions to run for Governorship of Rhode Island as an Independent.[2]


Early life, education, and early career

Chafee was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of John Chafee and Virginia Coates.[3] He attended public schools in Warwick, Rhode Island, Providence Country Day School, and Phillips Academy (at the same time as future Florida Governor Jeb Bush). At Brown University, Chafee captained the wrestling team and in 1975 earned a Bachelor of Arts in Classics. He then attended the Montana State University horseshoeing school in Bozeman. For the next seven years, he worked as a farrier at harness racetracks in the United States and Canada. One of the horses he shod, Overburden, set the track record at Northlands Park in Edmonton, Alberta.

Chafee and his wife, Stephanie D. Chafee, have three children: Louisa, Caleb and Thea.

Chafee's great-great-grandfather, Henry Lippitt, was Governor of Rhode Island. Among his great-great-uncles are Rhode Island governor Charles Warren Lippitt and United States Senator Henry Frederick Lippitt. His great-uncle, Zechariah Chafee, was a Harvard law professor and a notable civil libertarian. The Chafee family were among the earliest settlers of Hingham, Massachusetts, before moving south to Rhode Island.[4]

Political offices

Chafee entered politics in 1985 as a delegate to the Rhode Island Constitutional Convention. A year later, he was elected to the Warwick, Rhode Island City Council, where he served until his election as Warwick's mayor in 1992, a post he held until his 1999 appointment to the U.S. Senate.

After his father announced that he would not seek reelection in 2000, Lincoln Chafee announced he would run for the seat.[5] When John Chafee died suddenly in October 1999, Gov. Lincoln Almond appointed the younger Chafee to serve out the term. He was elected to a full six-year term in 2000, defeating Democratic candidate former U.S. Representative Robert Weygand by a 57 percent to 41 percent margin in the heavily Democratic state.

Political positions and voting record


As a Senator Chafee was noted for his liberal approach to abortion, often 'crossing the floor' to support the Democrats. He is strongly pro-choice. In May 2005, his senatorial re-election bid was endorsed by the traditionally Democratic-supporting NARAL Pro-Choice America due to his outspoken support for abortion rights. On October 21, 2003, Chafee was one of the three Republican Senators to oppose the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, voting with the Senate Democrats. The bill passed 64 to 34, was sent to President George W. Bush for his signature, and became law on November 5, 2003. Chafee was a member of the Republican Majority for Choice and Republicans for Choice.

Gay rights

Chafee is a strong supporter of gay rights. He was the only Republican senator to have expressed support for same-sex marriage.[citation needed] In his 2006 reelection campaign he was endorsed by the prominent gay rights organization, the Human Rights Campaign.


Chafee favors strong environmental regulations. He was one of the few Republicans to vote against allowing drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and was a member of the Republicans for Environmental Protection. He has been endorsed throughout his career by the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters.

Death penalty

Chafee strongly opposes the death penalty, and has consistently voted against limiting federal death penalty appeals, has favored including racial statistics in death penalty appeals, and a prerequisite of DNA analysis for all federal executions.

Tax policy

Chafee opposes eliminating the federal estate tax and voted against both the 2001 and 2003 federal tax cut bills. On November 17, 2005 he was the only Republican to vote in favor of reinstating the top federal income tax rate of 39.6% on upper-income payers.


Chafee is now involved in the J Street project.


Chafee was the only Republican in the Senate to have voted against authorization of the use of force in Iraq. On June 22, 2006, Chafee was the only Republican to vote for the Levin amendment calling for a non-binding timetable for a withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. He voted against the Kerry-Feingold amendment calling for a binding timetable.

Stem cell research

Chafee was a member of the Republican Main Street Partnership and supports federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

2006 John Bolton renomination

In November 2006, immediately following the midterm elections, Chafee joined key Democrats in opposing President Bush's renomination of John Bolton as United States Ambassador to the United Nations. On December 4, 2006, the White House announced that Bolton would no longer seek the appointment, and would resign within a matter of weeks.

Other issues

Chafee favors increased federal funding for health care and supports an increase in the federal minimum wage. He supports affirmative action and gun control, and was one of only two Republicans to vote against the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which prevents firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held liable for crimes committed with their products. On June 27, 2006, Chafee was one of only three Republicans to vote against the proposed Flag Desecration Amendment.

Some of Chafee's positions that are well within the mainstream of the Republican Party include:

Chafee's moderate stances have led some conservatives to refer to him as a "Republican In Name Only" (RINO).[9] [10] Most notable among these was Human Events magazine, which named Chafee "the No. 1 RINO in the country."[11] The National Journal has rated Chafee as the least Conservative Republican in the Senate, and placed him to the left of two Democrats, Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu.[12]

Known for often disagreeing with the Republican Party leadership, Chafee says he did not cast his ballot for President George W. Bush in the 2004 election, instead choosing to write in former president George H. W. Bush as a nod to the Republican Party of his father.[13] He has frequently criticized Bush's record on the environment and also expressed concern about the 2004 Republican platform and the direction of the party. He described the younger Bush's presidency as "an agenda of energizing the far-right-wing base, which is divisive."[14] Soon thereafter, he rejected Democratic overtures to leave the Republican Party after appeals from other Republican senators to remain in their caucus.[15]

Chafee considered challenging Bush for renomination in the New Hampshire primary in 2004 on an anti-war platform. In his autobiography, Against the Tide (2007), he states that "In the fall of 2003, part of me thought it was cowardly to oppose the president on so many issues and then not oppose him head-on as he sought renomination." However, he decided not to run after the capture of Saddam Hussein on December 13, 2003.[16]

In 2003, Chafee voted against the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit. However, Chafee also cast a crucial procedural vote against a Democratic attempt to kill the bill, which failed by only two votes.[17]

On May 23, 2005, Chafee was one of 14 bipartisan senators to forge a compromise on the Democrats' use of the judicial filibuster, forestalling the Republican leadership's implementation of the so-called "nuclear option." Under the agreement, the Democrats would retain the power to filibuster a Bush judicial nominee only in an "extraordinary circumstance," and three of the most conservative Bush appellate court nominees (Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen and William Pryor) would receive a vote by the full Senate.

Chafee was the only Republican to oppose Bush's nomination of Samuel Alito to the United States Supreme Court. However, he voted to end debate on the nomination, helping to end any chance of a Democratic filibuster.[18] Chafee did not announce his opposition to the nomination until a majority of Senators had already publicly said they would support Alito.[19]

Conservative author and radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt has argued that Chafee is one of the greatest roadblocks to creating a permanent Republican majority in the country because of his unwillingness to conform to the party's social goals. Hewitt argued further that Republicans should remove him from office by any necessary means, which includes voting for a Democrat against him. Ann Coulter has expressed disgust that Bush campaigned for him in the Republican primary against conservative Steve Laffey.[20]

2006 re-election campaign

In September 2005, Steve Laffey, the mayor of Cranston, Rhode Island, announced his intention to run against Chafee in the Republican primary. Laffey was considered a formidable challenger, as he was much more conservative than Chafee. Among other stances totally opposite those of Chafee's, Laffey is pro-life and against embryonic stem cell research. Laffey was heavily supported by notable conservative groups, including the Club for Growth and several Ohio-based pro-life groups. Chafee went on to defeat Laffey in the primary on September 12 by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent, an unusually close margin for an incumbent Senator. The turnout for the Republican primary was the largest in Rhode Island history. In his victory speech, Chafee credited unaffiliated voters and disaffiliated Democrats for his victory.[21]

Chafee was defeated by Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse in the general election. Whitehouse won by a 54 percent to 46 percent margin. Despite Chafee's high approval ratings statewide, Whitehouse pointed out that Chafee supported his party's more conservative leadership.

In response to a question at a news conference on November 9, 2006, Chafee stated that he was unsure whether he would remain in the Republican Party after serving out the remainder of his term. According to Michelle R. Smith of the Associated Press, when asked whether he felt that his loss may have helped the country by switching control of power in Congress, he replied: "To be honest, yes."[22]

Post-Senate activities

In December 2006, Chafee announced that he was accepting a fellowship to serve as a "distinguished visiting fellow" at Brown University's Thomas J. Watson Jr. Institute for International Studies. The university has Chafee leading a student group studying U.S. foreign policy.[23]

In the summer of 2007, Chafee officially left the Republican Party, changing his affiliation to independent. He said that he did so because of the Republicans' increasing conservatism, and particularly cited spending cuts in programs which assisted the middle- and low-income people, such as Pell Grants and Head Start.[24] In February 2008 he said he was considering voting for Barack Obama in the Democratic presidential primary.[25] On February 14, with the Rhode Island Democratic primary approaching in three weeks, Chafee officially endorsed Obama.[26]

In 2008, Chafee joined the advisory board of J Street, a lobbying group that promotes diplomatic relations between Israel and its neighbors, and supports an independent Palestinian state.[27]

In September 2008, Chafee received significant media attention for describing Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska and the Republican vice-presidential nominee in the 2008 United States presidential election, as a "cocky wacko".[28]

2010 gubernatorial candidacy

On January 4, 2010 Chafee formally declared his intentions to run for Governor of Rhode Island in 2010 as an independent, [29] as the incumbent Governor Donald Carcieri (a Republican re-elected the same day Chafee lost his Senate re-election bid) is term-limited. Chafee remains popular in Rhode Island, as his approval rating at the time of his 2006 defeat was between 63 percent[30] and 51 percent.[31]

Personal life

Aside from spending time with his wife and three children, Chafee enjoys outdoor activities, with a particular fondness for skiing and trail riding on his horse, Trapper.[32]

Electoral history

U.S. Senate (Class 1) elections in Rhode Island: Results 2000–2006[33]
Year Democrat Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
2000 Robert A. Weygand 161,023 41% Lincoln Chafee 222,588 57% Christopher Young Reform 4,107 1% Kenneth P. Proulx Independent 3,635 1%
2006 Sheldon Whitehouse 206,043 54% Lincoln Chafee 178,950 46%


  1. ^ "Chafee quietly quits the GOP"
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Chafee family tree". Retrieved 2008-07-03. 
  4. ^ The Chaffee Genealogy, William Henry Chaffee, 1635-1909, The Grafton Press, New York, 1909
  5. ^ A Republican on the Edge
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Jill Zuckman (2006-09-13). "GOP favorite wins Rhode Island primary". Chicago Tribune, Houston Chronicle. 
  10. ^ Associated Press (2006-09-07). "Sen. Lincoln Chafee Gains GOP Support". 
  11. ^ Human Events
  12. ^
  13. ^ The Good 5 Cent Cigar
  14. ^ - Sen. Chafee considers leaving GOP
  15. ^
  16. ^ Lincoln Chafee, Against the Tide (2007), p.119-120
  17. ^ | Providence | Local News | M. Charles Bakst
  18. ^ Chafee says he will vote against Alito -
  19. ^ - Alito Filibuster Fails, Confirmation Vote Expected Tuesday - Politics | Republican Party | Democratic Party | Political Spectrum
  20. ^ They Shot the Wrong Lincoln. by Ann Coulter, August 30, 2006. Accessed September 17, 2007.
  21. ^ Extra: Election | Rhode Island news | | The Providence Journal
  22. ^ Chafee unsure of staying with GOP after losing election -
  23. ^ Chafee takes fellowship at Brown. December 15, 2006, Providence Journal. Accessed September 17, 2007.
  24. ^ Former RI Sen. Lincoln Chafee Leaves GOP. September 16, 2007 Associated Press report. Accessed September 17, 2007.
  25. ^ Ex-Republican Chafee considers voting for Obama in R.I. primary. Mark Arsenault, February 8, 2008 The Providence Journal Accessed February 8, 2008.
  26. ^ Former Rhode Island senator endorses Obama
  27. ^ J Street : Supporters
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ MyDD :: MyDD Interview with Tom Allen
  31. ^ SurveyUSA - RI Jr Sen Approval
  32. ^
  33. ^ "Election Statistics". Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Retrieved 2008-01-10. 

See also

External links

Civic offices
Preceded by
Charles Donovan
Mayor of Warwick
Succeeded by
Scott Avedisian
United States Senate
Preceded by
John Chafee
United States Senator (Class 1) from Rhode Island
November 2, 1999–January 4, 2007
Served alongside: Jack Reed
Succeeded by
Sheldon Whitehouse

Simple English

Lincoln Davenport Chafee (born March 26, 1953) was a junior U.S. Senator from Rhode Island.

He was born in Providence, Rhode Island. Before he became Senator he was Mayor of Warwick (1993-1999). His father, John Chafee, was also a Senator from Rhode Island and member of the liberal wing of the Republican Party.

After his father was died in office Chafee was appointed to fill his vacancy. He was elected to his first full term in 2000.

He was probably the most liberal Republican Senator. He is strongly pro-choice, and supports gay rights and gun control. He was only Republican Senator in 2002 who voted against intervention in Iraq. In 2004 he did not endorse the reelection bid of President George W. Bush, and urged other Republicans to write-in in the November election George H. W. Bush, not his son.

In January 2006 he was also the only Republican Senator to vote against Samuel Alito to the United States Supreme Court.

He was, however, defeated for reelection in 2006 by Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse.

Came before:
John Chafee
U.S. Senator from Rhode Island
Came after:
Sheldon Whitehouse

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