PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Former Gov. Lincoln Chafee is taking steps to make a second run for president, this time under a different party banner.
Chafee filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission on Sunday creating a Lincoln Chafee for President campaign committee based in Teton Village, Wyoming, where he and his wife now make their home. A related website indicates he plans to run for the Libertarian Party nomination, as he has previously suggested he might do.
“Thirty Years, Zero Scandals,” the website declares. “Protect Our Freedoms. Tell The Truth. No More Wars. No More Reckless Spending.” The URL he is using, LincolnForLiberty.com, was registered last September by Ballot Access Marketing LLC, a North Carolina consulting firm.
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The news may spur concern among Democrats about the possibility Chafee could siphon votes away from their party’s eventual nominee in what is expected to be a tough race against President Trump. The 2016 Libertarian ticket of Gary Johnson and Bill Weld received about 4.5 million votes nationwide. (Weld is now challenging Trump for the GOP nomination.)
Reached Sunday night and asked whether he wanted to comment on his decision, Chafee said, “Not right now.” He is scheduled to speak at a Utah Libertarian Party fundraising dinner on Jan. 23 and has appeared at other party events in recent months. His federal filing was first spotted by Lee Fang, a journalist at the website The Intercept.
Chafee plans to deliver a speech at the National Press Club in Washington on Wednesday morning to “make an announcement concerning the 2020 Presidential race,” according to a news release posted to social media Monday.
“I’m looking forward to having a conversation with members of the Libertarian Party and the American people about fiscal responsibility, protecting our personal freedoms, and ending these needless and costly wars,” Chafee said in a statement.
The treasurer of the new Chafee for President committee is listed as Westerly Town Councilor Caswell Cooke Jr., who has known Chafee for years. His campaign manager is listed as Christopher Thrasher.
Chafee had signaled his desire to reengage with national politics on Friday, when he sent a relatively rare tweet reacting to the U.S. airstrike that killed a top Iranian general:
The decision marks yet another twist in Chafee’s complex political odyssey, which has taken him from scion of Rhode Island’s most revered Republican family to an independent and then a long-shot Democratic candidate for president four years ago. The latter effort ended after his universally panned performance in CNN’s first presidential debate.
After serving as mayor of Warwick, Chafee was appointed to finish the U.S. Senate term of his father, Rhode Island political icon John Chafee, after the latter’s death in 1999. Chafee won in his own right the following year, and spent his term as a rare GOP dissenter against the policies of the Bush administration, notably the Iraq war and tax cuts.
After losing to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse in 2006, Chafee became an independent, winning election as Rhode Island governor in 2010 with just 36% of the vote. But he was unpopular throughout his term, even after he joined the Democratic Party in 2013, leading him to step aside rather than seek re-election in 2014. His surprise presidential run came two years later.
Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook