- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat-turned-independent who was Al Gore’s running mate in the 2000 presidential election, said Wednesday he will not seek a fifth term in the 2012 elections.

“I’ve tried to thank you by working hard,” Mr. Lieberman told supporters in Stamford, Conn. “I’m grateful for the opportunity.”

He also joked that he was announcing his retirement the same day as fellow Connecticut resident and TV talk show host Regis Philbin.

Still, Mr. Lieberman, 68, faced a tough re-election in part because he had become unpopular among members of his former party, with whom he usually voted, because he strongly supported the war in Iraq and endorsed GOP Sen. John McCain over Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential elections.

Mr. Lieberman left the Democratic Party in 2006 after losing the Democratic primary, then won the November general election as an independent. After the 2000 presidential battle, he also mounted an unsuccessful presidential bid in 2004. Despite leaving the Democratic Party, he continued to caucus with his former party and retained a committee chairmanship.

He departs with a reputation for straddling the partisan divide in Congress and with at least one new legislative trophy, after leading the recent fight to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military.

While Mr. Lieberman’s hawkish views on the military and the Iraq war rankled some Democrats, his support for gay rights and abortion rights won him the praise of many liberals.

The Senate Democratic leadership appointed Mr. Lieberman as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in return for caucusing with the party.

His open seat could poses a pick-up opportunity for Democrats in a state where President Obama has been popular. Democrats hold 51 seats in the Senate and, besides Mr. Lieberman, also can normally count on support from the chamber’s other independent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Mr. Lieberman’s poll ratings in his home state had slipped in recent years, encouraging Democratic challengers and sparking speculation about his retirement. On Tuesday, former state Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, a Democrat, said she would run in 2012 for Mr. Lieberman’s seat.

Democratic Reps. Chris Murphy and Joe Courtney are considering a run. Republican businesswoman Linda McMahon is also seen as a potential challenger, after losing her Senate bid last year against Democrat Richard Blumenthal.

“Over the past few months, people from across Connecticut whose advice I respect have encouraged me to consider a Senate run,” Mr. Courtney said in a statement. “I am seriously considering that challenge.”