Joe Lieberman to quit ahead of difficult senate race

By Jennifer Lipman, January 19, 2011
Senator Joe Lieberman

Senator Joe Lieberman

One of the most senior Jewish politicians in the United States, and the only Jewish vice-presidential candidate in the history of the major parties, is expected to announce his departure from the Senate today.

Senator Joe Lieberman, who was first elected to represent Connecticut for the Democratic party in 1988 but left to run as an independent in 2006, will not contest a fifth election next year.

He will step down in January 2013, 12 years after he would have arrived at the White House had his run with Al Gore been successful, and nine years after he failed to secure the Democratic nomination for a presidential run against George W Bush.

His support for the Iraq war and his moderate positions on a number of issues put him at odds with much of his party, and in 2006 he lost the Connecticut primary to another Democratic candidate. He stood as an independent and won reelection in 2006 with 49.7 per cent of the vote.

But political experts suggested that he would have faced a difficult campaign against candidates from both parties next year.

A member of the 68-year-old’s staff said that Mr Lieberman was confident he could win but that he wanted “to have a new chapter in his life.”

Mr Lieberman caused a political stir in 2008 when he publicly backed the Republican candidate John McCain over his party’s choice – Barack Obama – for the presidency.

Born in Stamford, Connecticut in 1942, he came from a religious family and has remained observant throughout his life. He is one of the strongest supporters of Israel on Capitol Hill.

In 2002 Mr Lieberman told the JC that he had no doubt that Americans were “ready for a Jewish President.”

As a student at Yale, where he was editor of the university newspaper, he was involved in the civil rights movement, travelling to Mississippi to protest in 1963. He was elected to local office in 1970 and has remained in public life ever since.

David Gergen, a political adviser who studied at Yale with Mr Lieberman, told the New York Times that the senator was "from a breed that is becoming increasingly extinct, and we are poorer for it.

“He loved the job. He loved the politics. I think he will miss it.”

Last updated: 12:32pm, January 19 2011