The Slatest

Rhode Island Democrat (and Former Republican) Lincoln Chafee Will Run for President

Lincoln Chafee in 2006, when he was a Republican.

Darren McCollester/Getty

Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafee, who’s served as both a Republican senator and an independent governor, said on CNN Thursday that he will run for the 2016 Democratic nomination. Chafee has thus far only formed an 2016 “exploratory committee” rather than formally declaring himself a candidate, but told CNN that he is “running.” A spokeswoman said that Chafee “will file the proper papers to be an official candidate,” though he has not done so yet.

Chafee’s father, John, was also a Rhode Island senator and governor. The elder Chafee was a moderate Republican, supporting abortion rights, gun control, and conservation efforts, and his son has largely supported the same sorts of policies. Lincoln Chafee left the Republican party in 2007 after losing his Senate re-election race to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, and had been publicly uncomfortable in the party for years—he was critical of what he perceived as George W. Bush’s extremism and announced that he’d voted for the more moderate George H.W. Bush as a write-in candidate in 2004. Chafee endorsed Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and officially joined the Democratic Party in 2013 while governor. With his approval rating at 30 percent, he announced later in 2013 that he would not run for re-election to that office.