CT News Junkie StaffOn Tuesday, Sen. Joe Lieberman rode a wave of constituent loyalty back from the ashes of his defeat by challenger Ned Lamont in the Aug. 8 primary. Forty-nine percent of Connecticut’s voters gave Lieberman a fourth six-year term – and he’ll likely need all of it to win back the liberal Democrats who’d given up on him, but who were only able to muster 40 percent of the vote for Lamont.
On the right, Republican candidate Alan Schlesinger won only 10 percent of the vote despite offering a realistic, three-state solution for Iraq – the key issue in the campaign. Even Lamont gave Schlesinger’s plan his endorsement, providing the Iraqis would agree to it. But it was Lieberman who stuck to the Bush administration’s “stay the course” dogma in one of the bluest states in the nation, and he somehow found a core of support on which to hang his hat.In his victory speech, Lieberman thanked the people of Connecticut who “chose progress over partisanship, problem solving over polarization, and the mainstream over the extreme.“Lieberman continued, “I promise each and every one of you that I will return to the Senate with the foremost goal of breaking through the partisan gridlock in Washington so that our national government can better protect our people and improve the quality of our lives. That’s our job. Elected today, by voters of all political persuasions, I promise you I will go to Washington beholden to no political group, but only to the people of Connecticut and to my conscience.“Lieberman said he’ll be an independent Senator, and that he’ll do what he’s “always tried to do: to say what I mean, to do what I believe, and to seek common ground for the common good.“It was fairly obvious at the Goodwin Hotel in Hartford on Tuesday night – where hundreds of supporters chanted Lieberman’s name before he walked on stage – that it was loyalty that brought the victory home for the former vice presidential candidate.“I supported Joe because for years he’s supported military families,” said Litchfield attorney Kevin Creed, a 55-year-old Democrat and former member of his town’s Board of Selectmen. “He’s an honest guy.“Creed said Lieberman came through for him a few years ago, when after then Sept. 11 attacks he was called up again for military service in the Army. He said he agreed to go, and worked all over Iraq, Afghanistan, and the surrounding regions managing the service and maintenance of both military and civilian contractor aircraft.After three months of duty, Creed said, it became clear that neither he nor any of the retirees who’d returned to duty had been paid by the U.S. government. “I just made a phone call and he took care of us, all of the retirees over there,” Creed said.Before that, in the early 1990s, Creed said he was serving in the Army in Germany when he got caught up in an Army scandal as a witness. Creed said he testified against a U.S. general – whose name he wouldn’t reveal – who’d been caught stealing money.“When they came to me, I wasn’t part of the cover-up,” Creed said. “I told them I was going to tell the truth. We were right, but afterward we really got ostracized.” Creed said Lieberman got involved and helped to make sure none of the witnesses’ military careers were ruined because they chose to be honest and testify.Tuesday night, the Goodwin also was full of dozens of rowdy, yellow-shirted members of the International Association of Firefighters, including about 25 percent of the Southington Fire Department.Firefighter Eric D’Arcy, who at 32 is in his ninth year on the job in Southington and is vice president of IAFF Local 2033, said Lieberman has always supported firefighters and that’s why they came to give him theirs. D’Arcy, a Manchester resident, also was careful to point out that the union has always supported candidates rather than a particular political party.Fellow Southington firefighter Tom Donnelly agreed, and said the IAFF is the largest union of firefighters in the nation with over 200,000 members, and includes 90 percent of all unionized firefighters. He said the IAFF was the first union to endorse Lieberman in this campaign, and also was there during his vice presidential campaign in 2000.“Any issue we’ve ever gone to Joe with, he’s come through for us,” Donnelly said. “He has a 100 percent record.“Donnelly, who also is a Manchester resident, said Lieberman has earned their support.“We don’t forget,” he said.Lieberman also talked about the national election results, with an eye for change and even a softening of his position in support of the White House’s war strategy.“People here in Connecticut today and I believe across the country are sending a message to leaders of both major political parties,” Lieberman said. “They want change. And they don’t want change in just who runs Congress, they want change in how we run the country. I see this election today as a declaration of independence from the politics of partisanship. That is the message that I heard loud and clear from the people of Connecticut, and I intend to carry it in my heart and my head as I return to the United States Senate. And that will begin with Iraq, where there is a growing bipartisan consensus for a new strategy to get the job done there so we can bring our troops home sooner without endangering the security of the American people.“Lieberman also called for help from Connecticut residents.“For this and so many other reasons, we urgently need to change our national government from an arena of conflict and gridlock to a place of partnership and progress and I ask each and every one of you tonight, based on today’s election results, to believe with me that we can and will together bring about such a bold transformation if we want it, if we work for it, it will be more than a dream and America will benefit from that transformation.“More of Lieberman’s speech:“I want to thank Ned Lamont, who graciously called to congratulate me a short while ago and to wish me well. And Hadassah and I wish Ned and his family well. He was a worthy and very tough opponent. And he helped bring new voters and new volunteers into the political process. That’s good for our democracy. I hope they’ll stay. And I hope they’ll be open to finding common ground with me and all of you to build a better state and a better culture.”“From the returns coming in around the country it appears that people are voting for change this year. But what is not changed and must not, is our shared belief in America, its special values and its destiny in the world. I know that if we can come together again with a unity of purpose around our common beliefs we will find within ourselves an uncommon power to defeat the enemies that threaten us, to surmount all the challenges we face here at home and to secure and improve our country for generations to come.”“This is the opportunity and responsibility that you the voters of Connecticut have generously given me today. You know, my name was on the bottom of the ballot. Did you know that? So it seems only fitting that I thank you from the bottom of my heart. And I promise you that I will do everything I can as your United States Senator to make the most for you and your families of the great honor and opportunity you have given me today. Thank you. God Bless you.”