One of the most competitive political races this year is in Rhode Island where incumbent U.S. Senator Lincoln Chafee is running in a contested Republican Primary. Whoever wins that primary will face a strong challenger from the Democratic Party. National democrats hope to pick up the seat in an effort to gain a democratic majority. Our nation would clearly benefit from a change in congressional leadership but a Chafee defeat would be a loss for the nation.
Chafee is one of the last liberal Republicans. He has fought against President Bush's policies in Iraq, supported environmental protections, is pro-choice, and has opposed some of the president's most extreme judicial nominations. Chafee has been more progressive on some critical issues than Joseph Lieberman, the embattled democratic senator from Connecticut. It is no surprise that Chafee is being opposed by a right-wing opponent from his own party in the primary.
During the start of the first Gulf War there was a senate election in Oregon between longtime Republican incumbent Mark O. Hatfield and challenger Harry Lonsdale. Hatfield, whose views of abortion and economics I disagreed with, was a fierce opponent of the Reagan military build-up, sponsored the first major federal legislation to address homelessness, and voted to oppose G.H.W. Bush's military campaign against Iraq. Lansdale urged support for the war and ran a negative campaign. I made a decision then I'd rather have an honorable man in the Senate who shared my views of war and peace than a dishonorable man who would simply support the Democratic Party.
Lincoln Chafee is an honorable man. Some of the liberal political blogs have joined with right wing extremists in trying to paint Chafee into some kind of political monster and there is a good chance that both the attacks and his voting record will cost him the Republican nomination. That would be a shame. I want people such as Chafee talking up issues like the environment and opposition to the war in Republican caucus meetings. The senate is better off with his voice - and vote.