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CAMPAIGN 2000

Lieberman to Keep Senate Seat During Run for Vice President

August 25, 2000|MATEA GOLD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) has decided to keep his Senate seat as he campaigns for vice president and will leave his name on the ballot for reelection in the fall, a spokesman said Thursday.

If Lieberman had resigned, his Senate seat would have been temporarily filled by an appointment from the state's Republican governor. Dan Gerstein, Lieberman's Senate communications director, said Democratic leaders also urged the senator to hold on to his seat to avoid a scramble in their ranks to replace him on the ballot.

"There was a near universal feeling that, not only was it appropriate for him to do it, but it was the right thing to do for the Democratic Party," Gerstein said. "There was a concern that by taking his name off the ballot, it would set off a free-for-all as the party tried to come up with a nominee in a compressed time frame."

Republicans tried to make a campaign issue out of Lieberman's decision Thursday. "Maybe he doesn't have much confidence in the outcome of the [presidential] election," said Dick Cheney, the GOP nominee for vice president. "He thinks the national ticket's going to lose, so he's going to hang on to his day job."

Lieberman, the running mate of Democratic nominee Al Gore, is in the midst of a campaign for reelection to a third term in the Senate. His Republican opponent is Phil Giordano, the mayor of Waterbury, who lagged behind the Democratic incumbent by 56 percentage points in the latest poll.

If Lieberman had withdrawn, the state Democratic Party's central committee would have selected a new nominee, a prospect that Lieberman finds "undemocratic," Gerstein said. "Voters would have no input into who would be the Democratic nominee."

Lieberman is not the first to juggle two campaigns: Lyndon B. Johnson in 1960 and Lloyd Bentsen in 1988 ran for the vice presidency and the U.S. Senate simultaneously.

A spokeswoman for Christopher J. Dodd, the senior senator from Connecticut, said he had encouraged Lieberman to keep his seat.

"Should we not prevail in the White House, he feels that the citizens of Connecticut would like to have [Lieberman] as a senator," said Unice Lieberman, Dodd's press secretary (no relation to the senator).

By staying on the ballot, Lieberman could still be leaving the fate of his seat in the hands of Republican Gov. John Rowland. If he wins election to both the Senate and the White House in November, Rowland will appoint a senator to fill the seat until a special election can be held to choose someone for the rest of the six-year term.

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