Former Sen. Joe Lieberman, Democrats’ VP pick in 2000, dead at 82

Former Connecticut Senator and 2000 Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Joe Lieberman dead at 82.

By The Associated Press

Former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who nearly won the vice presidency on the Democratic ticket with Al Gore in the 2000 election and who almost became Republican John McCain’s running mate eight years later, has died, according to a statement issued by his family.

Lieberman died in New York City on Wednesday due to complications from a fall, the statement said. He was 82.

The Democrat-turned-independent was never shy about veering from the party line.

Lieberman’s independent streak and especially his needling of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential contest rankled many Democrats, the party he aligned with in the Senate.

“In an era of political carbon copies, Joe Lieberman was a singularity. One of one,” said Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat. “He fought and won for what he believed was right and for the state he adored.”

Over the last decade, Lieberman helped lead No Labels, a centrist third-party movement that has said it will offer as-yet-unnamed candidates for president and vice president this year. Some groups aligned with Democrats oppose the effort, fearing it will help presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump win the White House.

The group on Wednesday called Lieberman’s unexpected death a “profound loss,” describing him as “a singular figure in American political life who always put his country before party.”

Lieberman came tantalizingly close to winning the vice presidency in the contentious 2000 presidential contest that was decided by a 537-vote margin victory for George W. Bush in Florida after a drawn-out recount, legal challenges and a Supreme Court decision. He was the first Jewish candidate on a major party’s presidential ticket and would have been the first Jewish vice president.

Gore said in a statement Wednesday night that he was profoundly saddened by the death of his one-time running mate. He called Lieberman “a truly gifted leader, whose affable personality and strong will made him a force to be reckoned with” and said his dedication to equality and fairness started at a young age, noting Lieberman traveled to the South to join the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

“It was an honor to stand side-by-side with him on the campaign trail,” Gore said.

Lieberman sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 but dropped out after a weak showing in the early primaries. Four years later, he was an independent who was nearly chosen to be McCain’s running mate. He and McCain were close pals who shared hawkish views on military and national security matters.

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Lieberman tended to vote with Democrats on most issues and was a longtime supporter of abortion rights, a stance that would have proved problematic with conservatives had McCain chosen him as his running mate in 2008.

He played a key role in the legislation that created the Department of Homeland Security.

Lieberman grew up in Stamford, Connecticut, where his father ran a liquor store. Lieberman graduated from Yale University and Yale Law School in New Haven. As Connecticut’s attorney general from 1983 to 1988, he was a strong consumer and environmental advocate. Lieberman vaulted into the Senate by defeating moderate Republican incumbent Lowell Weicker in 1988.

After leaving the Senate in 2013, Lieberman joined a New York City law firm. His funeral will be held Friday at Congregation Agudath Sholom in his hometown of Stamford. An additional memorial service will be announced at a later date.

Lieberman and his wife, Hadassah, have four children.

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