United States Senate election in Connecticut, 2006
|Elections in Connecticut|
The 2006 United States Senate election in Connecticut was held November 7, 2006. Incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman lost the August 8 Democratic primary to Ned Lamont, Lieberman then formed his own third party and won in the general election to a fourth term. Lieberman and Lamont both faced Alan Schlesinger, a Republican.
The primary election for the Senate election in Connecticut was held on August 8, 2006. The Democratic Party primary pitted incumbent Joe Lieberman against cable executive Ned Lamont.
Because Connecticut was believed to be a Democratic stronghold, Connecticut's Senate seat was considered safe to remain as a Democratic seat by political analysts, but Lieberman's continued support for conservative and Bush administration policies made him vulnerable to a Democratic primary challenger. Lieberman's critics objected to what they call Lieberman's lack of commitment to the Democratic party; his opposition to affirmative action; his opposition to a Connecticut state law that would require Catholic hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims; his membership in the bipartisan Gang of 14; his support of Florida governor Jeb Bush in the Terri Schiavo case; his initial willingness to compromise on Social Security privatization; his alliances with Republicans; and his attacks on other Democrats.
On March 13, 2006, Ned Lamont announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination. Lamont was more liberal than Lieberman, but he was not immune from criticism from within his own party. The New Republic senior editor and "liberal hawk" Jonathan Chait, who is critical of Lieberman on a variety of issues, wrote:
I can't quite root for Lieberman to lose his primary. What's holding me back is that the anti-Lieberman campaign has come to stand for much more than Lieberman's sins. It's a test of strength for the new breed of left-wing activists who are flexing their muscles within the party. These are exactly the sorts of fanatics who tore the party apart in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They think in simple slogans and refuse to tolerate any ideological dissent.
Early polling showed Lieberman with as much as a 46-point lead, but subsequent polls showed Lamont gaining until Lamont took the lead just weeks before the primary. A controversy about a "kiss" Lieberman supposedly received from President Bush during the 2005 State of the Union address highlighted concerns that the senator was too close to the unpopular president to be a credible Democratic nominee. Lieberman released several campaign advertisements over the summer of 2006, seeking to connect himself to former President Bill Clinton and to portray Lamont as standing for little more than opposition to Lieberman. Lamont struck back against some of Lieberman's more negative ads with an advertisement produced by well-known political consultant Bill Hillsman. In Lamont's ad, a foreboding narrator says, "Meet Ned Lamont. He can't make a decent cup of coffee, he's a bad karaoke singer, and he has a messy desk." Lamont then chimes in, "Aren't you sick of political attack ads that insult your intelligence? Senator Lieberman, let's stick to issues and pledge to support whoever wins the Democratic primary."
From midmorning August 7 to well past August 9, Lieberman's official campaign site was taken offline; officials from Lieberman's campaign claimed "dirty politics" and "Rovian tactics" on the part of Lamont's supporters, and more specifically, a sustained Distributed Denial of Service attack that, according to the Lieberman campaign, had left the site down for several days.
Tim Tagaris, Lamont's Internet communications director, denied the charge and attributed the downtime to the fact that the Lieberman campaign had chosen an inferior web host, or ISP, and was only paying $15/month to operate its site (in comparison to the $1500/month being spent by the Lamont campaign). On December 20, 2006, a joint investigation by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's office and the U.S. attorney's office cleared the Lamont campaign of the hacking accusations. A spokesman for Kevin O'Connor, the U.S. Attorney for Connecticut, stated, "The investigation has revealed no evidence the problems the Web site experienced were the result of criminal conduct."
Lieberman was backed by the Human Rights Campaign, the United States Chamber of Commerce, the Defenders of Wildlife, and Planned Parenthood; he received endorsements from The Hartford Courant, The New Haven Register, and the Connecticut Post. Lamont was backed by the National Organization for Women, MoveOn.org, and Democracy for America; he received the endorsement of The New York Times.
Lamont won the primary with 51.79% of the vote, as opposed to Lieberman's 48.21%. However, in his concession speech, Lieberman announced that he would stand by his prior statements that he'd run as an independent if he lost the Democratic primary.
In the Republican Party primary, Alan Schlesinger drew fire in July when it was revealed that he had been gambling under an alias in order to avoid detection as a card counter. Despite calls to withdraw from the race, Schlesinger remained in the race, ultimately becoming the Republican nominee when no other Republican challengers entered the race.
|Democratic||Joe Lieberman (Incumbent)||136,468||48.2%|
- Ned Lamont (D): On August 8, Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont received 52% of the vote in the statewide Democratic Primary for one of Connecticut's seats in the United States Senate. He defeated incumbent Senator Joe Lieberman, who ran in the November election as a petitioning candidate of the Connecticut for Lieberman party line. In order to get onto the primary ballot on May 19, 2006, Lamont received 33% of the vote at the Democratic State Convention, well above the 15% threshold needed to appear on the primary ballot without having to collect signatures. Sean Smith, who at the time was the campaign manager for Senator Lieberman, dismissed his performance, claiming that many delegates at the convention saw the endorsement question as a "free vote" to "register displeasure with Lieberman without it costing them anything," and speculated that those voters would return to Lieberman in the August primary. Lieberman dismissed Smith as his campaign manager the morning after Lieberman's primary defeat on August 8.
Lamont differed from Lieberman on various issues. He opposed the Iraq War and the USA Patriot Act, opposed the creditor-friendly changes to U.S. bankruptcy law, opposed federal intervention in cases such as the Terri Schiavo case, opposed the federal earmark system, and said he would have led the charge against the Samuel Alito nomination. (Although Lieberman was one of 41 Democrats who voted against the Alito confirmation, he was one of 18 Democrats to vote for cloture. If cloture did not pass, a vote on the confirmation would have been blocked (unless Republicans had taken the controversial step of invoking the so-called "nuclear option").
- Alan Schlesinger (R): On May 20, 2006, Connecticut Republicans nominated former Derby Mayor Alan Schlesinger. In July, it was revealed that he was involved in inappropriate gambling activities: Schlesinger gambled under the alias "Alan Gold" to avoid detection as a card counter. On July 21, the Hartford Courant reported that Schlesinger had been sued by two New Jersey casinos for gambling debts. Schlesinger quickly faced fire from state party officials and some, including Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell, called on him to withdraw. Connecticut GOP chairman George Gallo had considered previous Republican Senate candidate Jack Orchulli as a possible replacement if Schlesinger had withdrawn. On July 24, however, Courant colummist Kevin Rennie suggested former State Senator Bill Aniskovich of Branford — who was defeated in 2004 while seeking his eighth term — would replace Schlesinger if he withdrew. Other possible replacements included U.S. Attorney Kevin O'Connor, State Senator John McKinney of Fairfield and Derby state representative Themis Klarides.
- Joe Lieberman (I), the incumbent three-term senator, was running for his fourth term. Lieberman was Al Gore's vice presidential running mate in the 2000 election. The Gore/Lieberman ticket lost the election to George W. Bush.
After a heated primary, Lieberman was defeated by Lamont 52% to 48%. Soon after his defeat, his campaign submitted the required signatures to run under the new Connecticut for Lieberman Party. While many of his Democratic colleagues tried to convince him to drop his bid, he stood firm on his promise to run. The day after losing in the primary, Lieberman fired the majority of his campaign staff including his campaign manager.
- Ralph Ferrucci (G): Connecticut Green Party nominee, artist, truck driver, 2004 congressional candidate, and 2003 "Guilty Party" New Haven mayoral candidate. Ferrucci received more than 15% of the vote when he challenged New Haven mayor John DeStefano, Jr. in 2003. Ferrucci had the least amount of money on hand of all the candidates and claimed to be the only candidate to publicly state his disapproval over Israel's invasion of Lebanon.
- Timothy Knibbs (CC) ran as the nominee of the Concerned Citizens Party. He also ran for the state's other senate seat in 2004.
Connecticut for Lieberman party
On June 12, Ned Lamont began running radio ads promising if he lost the primary to endorse Lieberman, challenging Lieberman to abandon consideration of an independent run by making a similar pledge. Lieberman refused to make this pledge; his campaign manager, Sean Smith said, "Are we going to support Ned Lamont? Ah, no!"
On July 3 in Hartford, Lieberman announced that he would collect signatures in order to guarantee himself a position on the November ballot. Both Lieberman and Smith said that Lieberman will run as a "petitioning Democrat" and will caucus with Senate Democrats if elected. On July 10, the Lieberman campaign officially filed paperwork allowing him to collect signatures to form a new political party, the Connecticut for Lieberman party.
Upon Lieberman's announcement, independent polls continued to show him favored to win a plurality or outright majority of the vote in a three-way general election (see below). The petition issue led to charges against the Lieberman campaign of political opportunism and lack of respect for the political process. Lieberman received strong support from many prominent conservative pundits and publications. "[H]is most vocal support came from places like The Weekly Standard, National Review, and Commentary Magazine; Sean Hannity, Bill Kristol and right-wing radio hosts cheered for his victory." Thus, "Lieberman was able to run in the general election as the de facto Republican candidate — every major Republican office-holder in the state endorsed him — and to supplement that GOP base with strong support from independents."
On August 29, Lieberman began airing an ad, named "Soothing", featuring images of a sunset over an ocean beach, while a female narrator says "you might enjoy a break from Ned Lamont's negative advertising. So just sit back and think about - good stuff." The Lamont campaign stood by their advertisements.
There was some debate over what impact Lieberman's campaign would have on several tight House races in Connecticut. Some argued that Lieberman would bring out Republican supporters, who would vote for Lieberman and then cross over to support the Republican House candidates. Others, such as Rahm Emanuel, argued that having two Democrats running against each other will increase the Democratic turnout, which will then benefit the Democratic House candidates.
According to The Hill, a Democratic aide to a high-ranking senator commented that Lieberman might be stripped of his Democratic privileges in the Senate. "At this point Lieberman cannot expect to just keep his seniority," said the aide. "He can’t run against a Democrat and expect to waltz back to the caucus with the same seniority as before. It would give the view that the Senate is a country club rather than representative of a political party and political movement."
On August 21, 2006 a group of New Haven Democrats cited Connecticut General Statutes section 9-61 in a complaint filed with the New Haven Democratic Registrar of Voters, Sharon Ferrucci, demanding that she purge Lieberman from the Democratic voter rolls. The statute reads in part: "Knowingly becoming a candidate for office on ticket of a new party automatically separates voter from his former party." Lieberman's campaign manager called it a "dirty political trick". Ferrucci rejected the complaint.
Waterbury statement controversy
Lamont campaign manager Tom Swan criticized the strongly pro-Lieberman city of Waterbury for alleged corruption, describing it as a meeting place for "forces of evil" in a published interview. Waterbury's Democratic Mayor Michael Jarjura, had endorsed Lieberman after the primary. Swan later apologized for the statement saying the comment was aimed at former Mayor Philip Giordano, who was arrested for sexual crimes with a minor, as "slime" and former Governor John G. Rowland, a Waterbury native, who was indicted for corruption, as "evil". Both Giordano and Rowland were forced to resign from their positions due to criminal activities. As Jarjura failed to accept Swan's apology, Lamont himself was forced to apologize for the comments. On August 22 Lamont announced former Democratic state chairman George Jepsen would be the chairman of the general election campaign. He denied this was a demotion of Swan.
|“||How does this factor into the Lieberman/Lamont contest? And might some argue, as some have, that Lamont is the Al-Qaeda candidate?||”|
|“||You know, I owe you an apology. Last week, I led into an interview with a guest analyst and really botched the set-up. The guest had wanted to discuss the Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman statements suggesting that terror groups — Al Qaeda type, to use Cheney’s words — would be buoyed by your win, but I posed it badly, stupidly ad-libbing about "some saying Lamont is the Al-Qaeda candidate." No one, in fact, used that construction. Anyway, I wanted to correct the record, and I'm glad we had this chance to do it.||”|
Impact of Lamont allies
Opinion columnist Robert Novak stated that Democratic leaders feared the visible role black activists Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson had at Lamont's primary night rally "might drive Republican, independent and even some Democratic voters into support of Lieberman's independent candidacy."
Vets For Freedom
On August 15, 2006, the Stamford Advocate reported that an organization called Vets For Freedom had run full page ads in the Hartford Courant in support of Lieberman. Lamont supporters claim that Vets for Freedom is a de facto Republican organization and point out the similarities between this organization and the Swift Vets, who had connections to Republican officials.
In early September, Lamont attacked Lieberman's response to the 1998 scandal involving President Clinton's affair with intern Monica Lewinsky, claiming Lieberman had created a "media spectacle". Lieberman responded by releasing an e-mail Lamont sent the senator at the time, in which Lamont wrote he reluctantly supported Lieberman's stance critical of Clinton.
|“||I reluctantly supported the moral outrage you expressed on September 3. I was reluctant because I thought it might make matters worse; I was reluctant because nobody expressed moral outrage over how Reagan treated his kids or Gingrich lied about supporting term limits (in other words, it was selective outrage); I was reluctant because the Starr inquisition is much more threatening to our civil liberties and national interest than Clinton's misbehavior...||”|
Lamont then called for Lieberman to "move on" from publicly criticizing Clinton:
|“||You have expressed your outrage about the president's conduct; now stand up and use your moral authority to put an end to this snowballing mess. We all know the facts, a lot more than any of us care to know and should know. We've made up our minds that Clinton did wrong, confessed to his sin, maybe he should be censured for lying--and let's move on.||”|
Lieberman's speech in 1998 had occurred after the President had gone on prime time television to admit his relationship with Lewinsky. Lieberman believes his speech defused partisan tension over a "media spectacle" already present prior to the senator's speech.
In late September, Lamont's campaign aired a controversial television ad that depicted various actors portraying Connecticut voters referring to Lieberman as a turncoat. One of these ads suggested that voters should wear their coats inside out to protest Lieberman's campaign as an independent candidate.
Lieberman responded with the "Blackboard" ad, where the words "Democrat" and "Republican" are separated by a line and Lieberman erased it, stressing his appeal was primarily to the state's largest voter bloc, unaffiliated voters.
Lieberman and Lamont fought a hotly contested and expensive primary battle for the Democratic nomination. Republican candidate Schlesinger gained his party's nomination through the Republican convention and raised and spent relatively little. Minor candidates' fundraising was almost nonexistent.
|Candidate||Report date||Raised||Spent||Cash on hand|
In the days before the Democratic Party primary, the Lieberman campaign invoked the "millionaire rule", believing that Lamont's personal campaign contributions had exceeded federal limits. Despite having more than double Lamont's funding, Lieberman accepted contributions up to a higher $6,300 limit per individual. The normal limit is $2,300. Between the primary and the general election, Lamont added over $2 million of his own money to his campaign effort. According to published reports, as of late October, Lamont had spent over $12.7 million of personal funds on his campaign, while Lieberman had raised over $14 million.
* = candidate for U.S. Senate in his home state
Lieberman won with approximately 50% of the vote, and served a six-year term from January 3, 2007 to January 3, 2013. Exit polls showed that Lieberman won the vote of 33% of Democrats, 54% of independents and 70% of Republicans.
|Connecticut for Lieberman||Joe Lieberman (incumbent)||564,095||49.7%|
|Concerned Citizens||Timothy Knibbs||4,638||0.4%|
|Write-in||Carl E. Vassar||80||0.0%|
|Connecticut for Lieberman gain from Democratic|
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