U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman told Windsor’s Democratic Town Committee on Sunday that he will “always be a member of the Democratic party,” and wholeheartedly believes he will win the primary against his challenger, Ned Lamont. But, he said, if there is no primary, he will still “want to give all the voters a chance to decide in November.” Those who have been keeping tabs on both Lamont and Lieberman’s campaigns said Sunday that Lieberman’s statement was the closest he has come to saying he might run as an independent candidate without actually saying the words.
Al Simon, a Democrat on the Windsor Town Council, said he was “shocked” by Lieberman’s response to a question from 17-year-old Joe Lalli, who had asked about the possibility of Lieberman running on his own if the Democrats opted not to endorse his nomination. “I think a lot of Democrats will be shocked” that Lieberman would consider a running as an Independent after being a Democratic for more than 35 years, Simon said. Lamont, Lieberman’s challenger from Greenwich, has said he will endorse Lieberman if he loses the delegate vote and fails to collect the more than 15,000 signatures needed to primary Lieberman on Aug. 8. If Lamont receives 15 percent of the delegates at the May 20 state convention, he automatically qualifies to primary Lieberman. If Lieberman doesn’t receive 15 percent of the delegates needed for the primary, he would have one day to collect 15,000 signatures to receive the Democratic Party’s endorsement in a primary. Lamont’s campaign has planned for both requirements in case he doesn’t receive 15 percent of the delegates at the state convention. Windsor will send 17 delegates to the state convention, Democratic Town Chairman Leo Canty said Sunday. He said the delegates have yet to endorse either candidate and will hold a convention to sort that out on May 4. The Democratic Town Committee already had met with Lamont on Thursday. After its question and answer session with Lamont, the committee passed a resolution to urge Lieberman to support U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold’s proposed censure of President George Bush. Last month Feingold proposed that Congress censure Bush for approving domestic wiretaps on American citizens without first seeking a legally required court order.Lieberman said Sunday that even though he thinks Bush’s action required court approval, a censure is “a waste of time” and would create “divisiveness” and “partisanship” when there are things that require his attention, such as the investigation into the administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina. “I do what I think is right from issue to issue,” Lieberman said during his opening remarks Sunday. “This is a year of extraordinary opportunity for the Democratic Party.” Lieberman also said that public support for the Republican Party has decreased, and that he wants “to take advantage of that and lead the Democratic ticket to victory.“But his stance on the Iraq war has made it difficult for Democrats to support Lieberman.An Associated Press poll conducted April 3-5 asked a random sample of 500 U.S. residents, “In your opinion, what is the most important problem facing the country today?” Nineteen percent said war, and 13 percent said the war in Iraq, while another 13 percent said immigration and 14 percent said the economy. Lieberman said his stance on the war in Iraq has been the same since 1991, when the former President George H.W. Bush opted not to take Baghdad, which was a mistake, according Lieberman on Sunday. Lieberman said he believes the current president made some terrible mistakes getting us there, and didn’t send over enough troops at the beginning of the war. But, he said, now that the troops are there, “we need to finish the job. We can’t just retreat; civil war will break out.“One man asked why Lieberman’s campaign didn’t jump on the opportunity this week to criticize the Bush administration based on reports of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s testimony, which implicated both Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in the leak of an intelligence agent’s identity in the lead-up to the war. Lieberman said that when that story broke, he was working on an immigration reform package in the Senate. His press secretary did email a short statement from Lieberman about Libby’s testimony later in the day.“There are times in politics where you can win an election because someone is so against your party, but don’t count on it,” Lieberman added.Lalli wasn’t convinced. “I want to support Lieberman, but I can’t,” Lalli, a Simsbury resident, said. “Bi-partisanship is great, but if you give them an inch, they run with it for a mile.” Lalli said the Democratic Party has a chance in November to make up some lost ground, but Lieberman is not 100 percent loyal to the party, and that’s why he can’t support him. Lucky for Lieberman, Lalli won’t turn 18 in time to vote in November.