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Iraq War at Heart of Connecticut Senate Race


The war in Iraq is the main issue in a key Senate race in the northeastern state of Connecticut. Incumbent Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman is now running as an independent after losing his party's primary in August to anti-war businessman Ned Lamont. As VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports from Hartford, Connecticut, the election is important for both sides of the political aisle.

It was just six years ago that he stood alongside Al Gore as the Democrats' pick for Vice President in the 2000 election.

But the war in Iran is now fueling the battle of Senator Joseph Lieberman's political life. "Too many people in the debate about Iraq have sought to demonize the other side. We've got to understand as Americans that reasonable people can disagree on this difficult subject."

It is such a difficult subject that Lieberman's support of the war cost him the support of his party. He lost the August 8 Democratic primary election to anti-war businessman and political newcomer Ned Lamont. "At the end of the day, the security of the United States is our number one priority and the question was 'is the war in Iraq making America any more secure?'"

Connecticut's Democratic voters answered that question by picking Lamont as their candidate for the Senate seat. "So it was a referendum on change - do you want to stay the course, or do you want to change the course, and I think that's how a lot of people read it."

Lieberman responded by announcing he would continue his campaign as an independent candidate.

There are now five names on the ballot in Connecticut's Senate race November 7, but it is essentially a two-way race between Lamont and Leiberman. The Republican candidate - Alan Schlesinger - is not considered a factor in the race.

Lieberman took an early lead in the polls, but political analysts watching the campaign say it is a close race.

That's why Lieberman is courting Iraq war veterans like Daniel Henderson to his campaign. "The issue of Iraq and the war in Iraq is absolutely the number one issue that will determine who I vote for in November."

Registered Democrats like Sharon Palmer say they haven't seen an issue galvanize Connecticut voters since the 1960 presidential election. "The only time I have seen such passion in politics is with John F. Kennedy."

It is a passion Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy hopes to bring to the current campaign. "The focus of not just Connecticut, but the country, and the world is going to be on Connecticut on election night, and this is a chance to change a national policy."

The Massachusetts Senator knows the stakes in November. The Democrats hope to gain control of the House of Representatives and Senate, which is why Kennedy is supporting Ned Lamont despite his friendship with Joe Lieberman.

Kennedy says the issues are too important. "These issues are too important to put friendship in there. They're too important. They're overarching - people are living and dying on these issues of Iraq and living and dying on health care and we're supposed to speak to those issues."

Despite the national and international attention, it is ultimately up to Connecticut voters to choose their Senator. Voters are heading to the polls with more on their minds than just the war in Iraq.

Palmer says what is at stake is more than the war. "I think Joe's record is costing him his job. Does that include the war? Absolutely. But is it the war alone? Absolutely not."

Jobs and health care are two of the big issues Lamont is using to help round out his political agenda in the weeks leading up to November 7.

But it is Iraq that will continue to dominate the campaign. And despite losing the support of the Democratic Party, Joseph Lieberman stands by his decision to support the war. "I supported the use of force in Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power because I believed that he was a grave threat to our country, his people, the region, and the world. And I continue to believe that decision was right."

It is a stand that resonates with his supporters.

Support Daniel Henderson, who is an Iraq war veteran adds, "Any tough decision that you face in life, whether it's a war in Iraq or whether it's your local politics, you understand that there is a right thing to do and a wrong thing to do. And the right thing to do is not always necessarily the easiest thing to do."

Connecticut voters will decide on November 7 whether they believe Senator Lieberman made the right decision, and deserves a fourth term.

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