Long-serving senator Joe Lieberman says goodbye

Joe Lieberman (Photo: AP)

Joe Lieberman (Photo: AP)

The man who was once in the running to be the first Jewish vice-president in history is to retire from public life this week.

Joe Lieberman, who remains the only Jew to have run for the United States' second-highest office in the history of the major parties, announced a year ago that he would not be standing for re-election and will officially step down on Thursday.

The senator, who was elected to represent Connecticut for the Democratic Party in 1988, has served 8,765 days in office, including a period in 2004 when he mounted a failed presidential campaign.

Not all of that period has been as a Democrat; despite standing on the same platform as Al Gore in the 2000 election, he switched allegiance in 2006. He chose to leave the party and run as an independent after losing the Connecticut primary to another Democratic candidate in the wake of his support for the Iraq war. In 2008 he endorsed Republican John McCain – a longtime congressional colleague – over Barack Obama.

The 70-year-old Washington veteran, who is an observant Jew, has been a consistent and strong supporter of Israel in his quarter of a century on Capitol Hill. His bipartisan approach made him unpopular with many of his colleagues, but his achievements in office include successfully pushing for a repeal on the ban on homosexuals serving in the military, and chairing the Senate Homeland Security committee.

In his farewell speech he acknowledged the length of his career, commenting: "When I started here in the Senate, a blackberry was a fruit and tweeting was something only birds did" .

Writing on Twitter on New Year's Eve, he thanked the people of Connecticut "for the opportunity to serve" and added: "May 2013 bring you health & happiness."

In a recent interview with the New York Times, the senator described the last two years in US politics as "the most partisan, least compromising and therefore the least productive" of any time during his career.

Last updated: 11:09am, January 3 2013