Lieberman's Independent Turn Draws Liberals' Ire

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

( - If he loses the Connecticut Democratic primary Aug. 8, Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman will run for re-election as an independent. Lieberman's announcement Monday drew harsh criticism from liberal activists and his Democratic challenger's supporters.

As Cybercast News Service previously reported, Lieberman is losing ground to his primary challenger, businessman Ned Lamont. Several polls taken in June showed Lamont, a staunchly anti-war candidate, trailing Lieberman by only 6 percentage points. The same polls suggested that if he ran as an independent, Lieberman would defeat Lamont and Republican challenger Alan Schlesinger.

Lieberman announced Monday that he would begin collecting the 7,500 signatures required to secure his place on the November ballot as an independent if he loses the primary.

In his announcement Monday, Lieberman said he will continue to act as a Democrat in the Senate whether he runs as that party's official candidate or as an independent.

"This decision reeks of arrogance," director Eli Pariser said in a press release. Pariser criticized Lieberman for "holding himself above the democratic process by which his party chooses its candidates."

But Pariser praised the process being used to support Lamont over Lieberman. "It's good news for democracy, too," he said. "The era in which a cabal of consultants choose which candidates run as Democrats is ending, and rank-and-file Democrats and progressives are being heard.", the liberal non-profit organization that rallied behind former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's failed bid for the presidency in 2004, has endorsed Lamont over Lieberman.

Left-wing blogger Markos "Daily Kos" Moulitsas, who has appeared in Lamont's campaign commercials, further criticized Lieberman on his blog Monday, writing that the incumbent "doesn't respect the wishes of his state's Democratic voters ... and [will] potentially hand the election to a Republican."

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) will not support Lieberman if he loses the Democratic primary. The AP quoted Clinton as saying that while she hopes Lieberman wins the primary, she "will support the nominee chosen by Connecticut Democrats."

Lamont's campaign manager Tom Swan wrote on the campaign's website that the challenger's campaign welcome's Lieberman to run as an independent because "the only thing better than the people of Connecticut getting an opportunity to reject President Bush's energy policy, Supreme Court nominees, and failed plan in Iraq, is an opportunity to reject it twice."

In spite of some liberals distancing themselves from Lieberman, he enjoys the endorsements of several left-wing organizations including the Human Rights Campaign, the AFL-CIO and Planned Parenthood.

A spokesman for Lieberman's re-election campaign did not return calls requesting comment Wednesday.

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