Lincoln Chafee

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Lincoln Chafee is the governor of Rhode Island

Lincoln Davenport Chafee, Republican-turned-independent, is the governor of Rhode Island since January 2011. He was a former Republican senator from Rhode Island 1999 to 2007. In the 2006 congressional elections, he was defeated by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)[1]



Born March 26, 1953 in Providence, Rhode Island, Chafee attended Warwick public schools, Providence Country Day School and Phillips Academy. He earned a degree in Classics from Brown University in 1975, where he was captain of the wrestling team. After Brown, he attended the Montana State University horseshoeing school in Bozeman. For the next seven years he worked as a blacksmith at harness racetracks in the United States and Canada.

After serving for several years on the city council, Chafee was elected mayor of Warwick in 1992, a post he held until his appointment to the Senate.

When Chafee's father, Sen. John Chafee (R-RI), died suddenly in October 1999, Lincoln Chafee was appointed by Gov. Lincoln Almond to serve the remainder of his father's term. Chafee was elected to a full six-year term in 2000.

Senate career

Though a Republican, Lincoln Chafee was considered to have the most liberal voting record of Republicans in the Senate [1]. He supports legal abortion and gay rights, more federal funding for health coverage, and strong environmental protection. Chafee supports an increase in the federal minimum wage. He also supports affirmative action and gun control. Chafee was one of only two Republicans to vote against the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act which banned lawsuits against gun manufacturers and distributors. He opposes eliminating the estate tax and was one of only three Republican senators to vote against the 2003 tax cut. He is the only Republican to vote in favor of reinstating the top federal tax rate of 39.6% on upper-income payers. He also supports gay rights, stating that he is 'okay' with same-sex unions described as marriage. Along with several other moderate Republicans, he voted against Arctic National Wildlife Refuge drilling.

These stances have led some conservatives to call Chafee a RINO, a Republican In Name Only. People have also used the older term "Rockefeller Republican" to describe him. Many have speculated that Chafee might have become an independent or even joined the Democratic Party if the Democrats had been in control of the Senate or within one seat of control after the 2002 or 2004 elections. There is still speculation that Chafee might switch parties or become an independent if he continues to have conflicts with the Republican leadership, or if the Democratic Party regains control of the Senate.

In May 2005, Chafee's senatorial re-election bid was endorsed by the traditionally Democratic-supporting NARAL Pro-Choice America, in spite of the fact that the strongest possible challenger to Chafee, anti-abortion Rep. James Langevin, had declined to run for senator.

Iraq War

Chafee voted against the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq in Oct. 2002.

For more information see the chart of U.S. Senate votes on the Iraq War.

2006 elections

In September 2005, Cranston, Rhode Island mayor Stephen Laffey announced his intention to run against Chafee in the Republican primary. Laffey was considered a formidable challenger, as Laffey is perceived as more conservative than Chafee, and Republican primary voters are more conservative than voters in a general election, but Chafee survived the challenge.

In 2006, the Democrats nominated Sheldon Whitehouse to face Chafee in his November 2006 bid for reelection. (See U.S. congressional elections in 2006) [2] Whitehouse defeated Chafee 53%-47% to take possession of the seat. [3]

2010 elections

In the 2010 three way governor race, Chafee won with 36.1% of the vote, edging out Republican John F. Robitaille (33.6 percent) and Democrat Frank T. Caprio (23.0 percent). President Barack Obama's "non endorsement" was flagged as an important factor in the results.[2]

Meet the cash constituents

Links to more campaign contribution information for Lincoln Chafee
from the Center for Responsive Politics' site.
Fundraising profile: 2006 election cycle Career totals
Top contributors by organization/corporation: 2006 election cycle Career totals
Top contributors by industry: 2006 election cycle Career totals


Disagreements with Republican leadership

Chafee, known for often disagreeing with the Republican party leadership, did not cast his ballot for President George W. Bush in the 2004 election, despite having endorsed him in 2000 before he had even become the Republican nominee. Sen. Chafee instead chose to write-in George H. W. Bush as a nod to the Republican party of his father [4].

Chafee was the only Republican senator to vote against the authorization of military force in Iraq in 2003. He has frequently criticized President Bush's record on the environment and he 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."[5] Soon thereafter, he rejected Democratic overtures to leave the Republican Party, after appeals from other Republican senators to remain in their caucus.[6]

Opposition to Alito

On January 30, 2006, Senator Chafee broke away from the Republican Party when he announced his opposition of President Bush's nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. However, he voted to end debate on the nomination, helping to end any chance of a Democratic filibuster. When the vote was taken on January 31, Chafee was the only Republican to vote against Alito's confirmation. [7]

Judicial filibuster

On May 23, 2005, Chafee was one of fourteen senators, known as the "Gang of 14," to forge a compromise on the Democrats' use of the judicial filibuster, thus preventing the Republican leadership's attempt to implement 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 the three most conservative Bush appellate court nominees (Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen and William H. Pryor, Jr.) would receive a vote by the full Senate.

Hires wife of convicted political operative

In his July 2006 filing to the Federal Election Commission, Chafee lists $386,000 in payments for “consulting services” to a firm called Northeast Strategies LLC, located in Bangor, Maine. The address he lists is that of James Tobin, a former regional official of the Republican National Committee. In 2005, Tobin was found guilty of criminally violating federal elections law by participating in a scheme by New Hampshire Republicans to jam Democratic get-out-the-vote phone lines on Election Day 2002.

Chafee’s campaign manager, Ian Lang, said that Tobin has no part in Chafee’s reelection campaign. Rather, Northeast Strategies is made up of Tobin’s wife, Ellen, and a political consultant, Kathie Summers. [8]

Committees and affiliations

Committees in the 109th Congress (2005-2006)

Coalitions and caucuses

More background data

Wikipedia also has an article on Lincoln Chafee. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.


Office of the Governor
222 State House
Providence, RI 02908
Phone: 401-222-2080

Articles and Resources



  1. Lincoln Chafee profile, The Washington Post, accessed January 2011.
  2. Kimberley Donoghue, "Chafee first independent R.I. governor; strong showing by Democrats", Providence Business News, Nov 3, 2010.
  3. Advisory Council, JStreet, accessed May 28, 2008.


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