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Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Senator and 2000 Vice Presidential Nominee, Dead at 82

Joseph Lieberman, the longtime U.S. senator from Connecticut who became the first Jewish candidate of a major party when Al Gore selected him as his running mate in the 2000 election, has died at the age of 82.

Marc E. Kasowitz of law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres, where Lieberman took a position as Senior Counsel for more than a decade after serving 24 years in the Senate, confirmed his death in a statement to Rolling Stone. “We are profoundly saddened at the passing of our firm’s senior counsel Senator Joe Lieberman,” wrote Kasowitz. He continued: “We are grateful for his many contributions to our success, and we are proud that he continued to the end to be such an important voice for America’s greatest values… We extend our deepest sympathies to Hadassah, to Senator Lieberman’s entire family.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn), who took over Lieberman’s seat after he retired from the Senate, expressed the state’s shock over his sudden death. “In an era of political carbon copies, Joe Lieberman was a singularity. One of one,” wrote Murphy. “He fought and won for what he believed was right and for the state he adored.”

While Lieberman prided himself as a centrist Democrat — grounding his stance in support of abortion rights, environmental protection, gay rights, and gun control — he often pushed back against Democratic orthodoxy. Throughout his career in politics, he led the fight with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) to overturn restrictions on gays and lesbians in the U.S. military, spearheaded opposition to the Obama administration’s Iran nuclear deal, and became one of the legislative architects of the Department of Homeland Security, which was established after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Lieberman’s support for Israel and opposition to the Iran nuclear deal led to his endorsement of former President Donald Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. He later supported Trump’s controversial nomination of Betsy DeVos — a charter school and voucher advocate — to be education secretary. In 2017, Lieberman, who was 75 years old at the time, was Trump’s reported top pick to head the FBI.

Still, the former Connecticut senator also backed the Democratic presidential nominees in 2016 and 2020 — Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, respectively. In July 2023, he told the Atlantic, “The last thing I’d ever want to be part of is bringing Donald Trump back to the Oval Office.”

Lieberman often aligned himself with two Republican colleagues, Lindsey Graham from South Carolina and the late Sen. John McCain. McCain considered choosing Lieberman as his running mate on the 2008 GOP presidential ticket but picked Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin instead after garnering criticism from conservatives over Lieberman’s liberal background.

In retirement, Lieberman co-chaired No Labels, the centrist group that prepared to field a third-party presidential “unity ticket” in 2024 and aimed to promote bipartisanship — drawing the ire of Democrats who believe it would siphon votes from President Biden and hand the election to Trump. Over the past year, the organization has been leading a reported $70 million campaign to secure ballot access nationwide for a potential ticket. (No Labels has refused to disclose who’s funding this effort, claiming that this is to protect its donors from “agitators and partisan operatives.”)

“The greatest obstacle I see standing between us and the brighter American future we all want is right here in Washington,” he told colleagues, per the Washington Post. “It is the partisan polarization of our politics which prevents us from making the principled compromises on which progress in a democracy depends.”

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