Joe Lieberman quits after 'barrier-breaking' rise in US politics

Joe Lieberman

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, has announced 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, said he will not contest a fifth election next year.

Speaking to an audience including six of his grandchildren, he recalled the journey his grandparents had made to America a century before.

He said they could never have imagined that he would end up a senator “and incidentally a barrier-breaking candidate for vice president."

Quoting from Ecclesiastics, he said: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under Heaven.

“At the end of this term, I will have served 24 years in the US Senate and 40 years in elective office. For me, it is time for another season and another purpose under Heaven.”

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

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.

Last updated: 6:32pm, January 19 2011