PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island's independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee used a prime-time address at the Democratic National Convention Tuesday to blast his former GOP while urging support for Democratic candidate Barack Obama.
Chafee, a former Republican, said his remarks on the convention's opening night in Charlotte, N.C., were meant to convince independents and Republicans that Obama is the better choice over Republican Mitt Romney.
"As the nation's only independent governor, I am here tonight to join with my Democratic friends, on the event of an election critical to the future of our children and their country," Chafee said.
Chafee listed Obama's support for environmental protection, abortion rights, gay marriage and programs like Head Start and Pell grants.
The former U.S. senator criticized his former party, saying Republicans failed to pay tax cuts for the wealthy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also criticized GOP budget proposals that he said would hurt programs like Head Start and Pell grants, which Chafee said help Americans help themselves.
Chafee said he represents millions of Americans who want leaders who share their conservative and liberal ideals.
"We are, at our core, conservatives, in the best sense of the word. Thoughtful, responsible with public resources, and respectful of personal freedom," Chafee said. "And we are liberal, in the best sense of the word. We believe that government can and should be an instrument for the greater good."
Chafee left the Republican Party in 2007 after losing his seat in the U.S. Senate to a Democrat. He endorsed Obama in 2008. When Chafee ran for governor in 2010, Obama declined to endorse Chafee's Democratic opponent out of consideration for Chafee.
The chairman of the national Republican Party was dismissive of Chafee's appearance. The Providence Journal reported that GOP National Chairman Reince Priebus told reporters Monday that Chafee and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, also an ex-Republican, are not exactly rising stars. Crist is also scheduled to speak at the convention.
"Look at these folks Democrats are trotting out," he said. "Not exactly rising stars of the future."
Ed Pacheco, chairman of the Rhode Island Democratic Party, was in the audience for Chafee's speech and said Chafee received a warm welcome.
"The governor was invited to make the case for why moderates and independents and conservatives should support Barack Obama," he said. "He doesn't feel welcome in the Republican Party and I can't blame him."
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