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Connecticut's Lieberman Forced into Fall Primary

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Connecticut's Lieberman Forced into Fall Primary

Politics

Connecticut's Lieberman Forced into Fall Primary

Connecticut's Lieberman Forced into Fall Primary

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Last night, Connecticut Democrats held their state convention in Hartford. Sen. Joseph Lieberman was the top vote-getter, but Ned Lamont, an anti-war challenger, collected enough votes to force a fall primary. Amy Jeffries of member station WNPR reports.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

Delegates had to weigh two things at last night's Democratic state convention in Connecticut. One was the 18-year record of Senator Joseph Lieberman, who is seeking a fourth term this year. The other is how to deal with Mr. Lieberman's support for the war in Iraq, which has become increasingly unpopular at home. From member station WNPR in Hartford, Amy Jeffries reports.

AMY JEFFRIES reporting:

Hamburgers and kosher hot dogs were sizzling on a grill at a Lieberman for senate barbecue held just outside the Connecticut Expo Center yesterday afternoon. Senator Joseph Lieberman, an orthodox Jew had to leave the convention early to observe the Sabbath. So he used his campaign barbecue as an opportunity to schmooze with delegates and repeat the message that he's been making with hundreds of phone calls over the past month. That the war in Iraq wasn't enough of a reason to vote for Ned Lamont, the political novice who is challenging him for the party nomination.

Senator JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (Democrat, Connecticut): My opponent is running basically one issue, Iraq. And probably most delegates to this convention, not probably, most delegates at the convention don't agree with me on that issue.

But the really encouraging part of my phone conversations is that over and over again they'd say, I don't agree with you about Iraq, but I know you did it sincerely, and I support everything else you've done for the state. So I want you to be my senator again.

JEFFRIES: Fran Nickle(ph), a delegate from South Windsor, got one of Lieberman's phone calls.

Ms. FRAN NICKLE (Delegate, South Windsor): I don't think Joe would be too happy if I told you what I said to him.

JEFFRIES: Nipple says she told the senator she didn't like his new campaign ads in which he acknowledges that his stance on the Iraq war is unpopular with his constituency.

Ms. NIPPLE: I did not like him because he said, I may not always agree with you but I listen. And I said, Joe, that's wrong. We put you in there. You're suppose to do what we want you to, not just listen.

JEFFRIES: Still, Nipple says she's supporting Lieberman because she doesn't think the Democrats can afford to lose his seniority in the Senate. She hopes he'll change his stance on the war if he wins a fourth term.

But down on the convention floor, Gail Landry(ph) of Portland said she's not banking on Lieberman changing his mind.

Ms. GAIL LANDRY (Portland Resident): The war in Iraq is just so big and it trickles down to so many other issues, you know, healthcare, education and all these things. And there's like a ton of money being filtered elsewhere that we could be putting here.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

JEFFRIES: John Fabrizi is the mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut's largest city. As he seconded Lieberman's nomination, he referred to a common refrain from the Lamont campaign.

Mayor JOHN FABRIZI (Bridgeport, Connecticut): I heard someone say recently that Joe Lieberman should spend less time in Baghdad and more time in Connecticut. And while some may disagree with Joe Lieberman's view on the war, no one could disagree with his commitment to Connecticut's future.

JEFFRIES: Ned Lamont needed 15 percent of the delegates to force an August 8th primary against Lieberman. But as the Secretary of Connecticut's Democratic Party read off the final tally, it became clear that Lamont was getting more than double what he needed.

Unidentified Woman #1: Those voting for Ned Lamont, 505. (Soundbite of crowd cheering)

Those voting for Senator Joseph Lieberman, 1,004.

(Soundbite of song Still the One)

JEFFRIES: The Lieberman campaign boasted the victory by playing the Orleans anthem, Still the One. But Lamont's showing also reminded them that while Lieberman remains popular with many of the Democratic delegates here, the war is most certainly not. For NPR News, I'm Amy Jeffries in Hartford, Connecticut.

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