Darren McCollester/Getty Images
Sen. Joe Lieberman concedes defeat in what he called "the first half" of his campaign for re-election.
Sen. Joe Lieberman concedes defeat in what he called "the first half" of his campaign for re-election. Darren McCollester/Getty Images
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Sen. Joe Lieberman, crippled by his support for the Iraq war, lost the Democratic nomination for a fourth term Tuesday to a political newcomer who portrayed him as an apologist for the Bush administration.
His loss to Ned Lamont — just six years after his party made him its vice presidential candidate — made him only the fourth incumbent senator to lose a primary since 1980. But he pledged to petition his way onto the November ballot as an independent candidate.
"As I see it, in this campaign we just finished the first half and the Lamont team is ahead. But, in the second half, our team, Team Connecticut, is going to surge forward to victory in November," Lieberman said late Tuesday.
Lieberman was losing with 48 percent, or 134,026 votes, to Lamont's 51 percent, or 144,005 votes, with 98 percent of precincts reporting.
"They call Connecticut the land of steady habits," a jubilant Lamont told a cheering crowd. "Tonight we voted for a big change."
Supporters said Lamont's victory was a beginning of a national movement.
"People are going to look back and say the Bush years started to end in Connecticut," said Avi Green, a Lamont volunteer from Boston. "The Republicans are going to look at tonight and realize there's blood in the water."
Nationally known for his centrist views and his party's vice presidential nominee in 2000, the 64-year-old Lieberman has endured harsh criticism in his home state for supporting the war and has been labeled by some Democrats as too close to Republicans and President Bush.
Lieberman said he would file petitions with the state Wednesday morning to run as an independent in the general election.
The race attracted tremendous interest, both in Connecticut and nationally. More than 14,000 Connecticut voters switched their registration from unaffiliated to Democrat to vote in the primary, while another 14,000 new voters registered as Democrats, according to state statistics.
State officials said turnout was a record for a Connecticut primary. Typically turnout in Connecticut primaries is about 25 percent, but was projected to be more than 40 percent Tuesday.
Lieberman canceled his final campaign appearances before the polls closed at 8 p.m. and began reaching voters by phone in the final hours. He skipped stops scheduled for Waterbury and Bristol.
Lamont, a millionaire owner of a cable television company and a former Greenwich selectman, held a slight lead over Lieberman among likely Democratic voters heading into Tuesday's primary.
The Lieberman campaign ran into problems with its Web site on Monday and by Tuesday morning, the site had crashed. Campaign officials accused Lamont's supporters of hacking the site and e-mail system and filed a complaint with the Connecticut attorney general and the U.S. attorney's office.
Lieberman said he had no proof that Ned Lamont's supporters were responsible, but asked the state party chairman to intervene.
"I'm concerned that our Web site is knocked out on the day of the primary, you'd assume it wasn't any casual observer," Lieberman said.
Lamont called the accusation "just another scurrilous charge."
His campaign denied involvement and denounced the sabotage.