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Former Senator Joe Lieberman, elected Democratic vice president in 2000, has died at the age of 82

NEW YORK (AP) — Former U.S. senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who almost won the vice presidency on the Democratic ticket Al Gore One of the controversial 2000 elections who nearly became Republican John McCain’s running mate eight years later has died, according to a statement from his family.

Lieberman died Wednesday in New York City as a result of a fall, the statement said. He was 82.

The independent Democrat was never afraid to deviate from the party line.

Lieberman’s independent streak, and particularly his confrontation with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign, sparked resentment among many Democrats, the party with which he was allied in the Senate. But his support for gay rights, civil rights, abortion rights and environmental causes earned him the praise of many liberals at times over the years.

Lieberman came tantalizingly close to winning the vice presidency in the contentious 2000 presidential race, which was decided by a 537-vote margin for George W. Bush after a lengthy recount, legal challenges and a Supreme Court decision. He was the first Jewish candidate on a major party’s presidential ticket and would have been the first Jewish vice president.

He was also the first national Democrat to publicly criticize President Bill Clinton over his extramarital affair with a White House intern.

Lieberman sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, but dropped out after a poor showing in the early primaries. Four years later, he was an independent and was almost elected as McCain’s running mate. He and McCain were close friends who shared aggressive views on military and national security issues.

As the 2008 GOP convention approached, McCain was leaning heavily toward choosing Lieberman, but he chose Sarah Palin at the last minute after conservatives offered “fierce” opposition to Lieberman’s liberal record, according to Steve Schmidt. who ran McCain’s campaign.

Lieberman caused controversy in 1998 when he rebuked Clinton, his longtime girlfriend, for “disgraceful behavior” in an explosive speech on the Senate floor during the height of the scandal surrounding his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. But Lieberman later voted against impeaching Clinton.

He defended his conscientious change of party and said he always had the well-being of Connecticut voters at heart. Critics accused him of pursuing narrow self-interest and political expediency.

When Lieberman announced his retirement from the Senate in 2013, he acknowledged that he “did not always fit comfortably into conventional political boxes” and that his first responsibility was to serve his constituents, the state and the country, rather than his political party . He had a difficult relationship with the Democrats.

During his final speech on the Senate floor, Lieberman called on Congress to look beyond party lines and partisan rancor to break the gridlock in Washington.

“You have to reach across the aisle and find counterparts,” Lieberman said. “This is what Washington desperately needs right now.”

Harry Reid, who served as Senate Democratic leader, once said that while he didn’t always agree with the independent-minded Lieberman, he respected him.

“Regardless of our differences, I have never doubted Joe Lieberman’s principles or his patriotism,” Reid said. “And I respect his independence because it is based on strong convictions.”

Privately, some Democrats were often less sympathetic to Lieberman’s forays across party lines, which they viewed as disloyal. After a Senate primary defeat in Connecticut in 2006, he left his party and became an independent.

Lieberman’s strong support of the Iraq War damaged his national popularity. Democrats rejected Lieberman and gave the 2006 primary to a political newcomer and anti-war candidate, Ned Lamont.

Defying Democratic leaders and friends, Lieberman successfully ran for re-election as an independent and received the support of some Republican allies. Lieberman received praise from the White House and fundraising support from prominent Republicans, such as then-New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who later ran as an independent himself.

Lieberman made his experience in the Senate and influence in Congress a strong selling point, saying he would fight hard for the state’s defense positions and its fair share of federal largesse. The strategy paid off.

Lieberman won re-election to a fourth term even though many of his Democratic allies and longtime friends, including former Sen. Chris Dodd, supported Lamont. Lieberman was outspoken about what he saw as betrayals by old friends like Dodd, but the two men later reconciled.

After his successful re-election in 2006, Lieberman decided to work with Senate Democrats, who in return let him head a committee because they needed his vote to maintain control of the closely divided chamber. But it didn’t take long for Lieberman to show his independent streak and anger his fellow Democrats.

Despite the Democrats’ decision to admit him to their caucus as an independent, Lieberman was an enthusiastic supporter of McCain in the 2008 presidential campaign.

Lieberman’s speech at the 2008 Republican presidential convention, in which he criticized Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, struck a deep chord with many Democrats.

Lieberman described Obama as a political showhorse, a lightweight with a poor track record in the Senate despite his tremendous eloquence as an orator.

“In the three and a half years that Senator Obama has been in the Senate, he has not crossed party lines to accomplish anything significant, nor has he been willing to take on powerful Democratic interest groups.” “Party to achieve something achieve,” Lieberman said at the congress.

“Eloquence is no substitute for a record,” he said.

Lieberman campaigned vigorously for McCain across the country. Many Democrats saw it as a betrayal of Obama and his former party colleagues.

“Joe Lieberman has said things about Barack Obama that are completely irresponsible,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said in a radio interview during the 2008 campaign.

After the election, there was speculation that Senate Democrats might strip Lieberman of his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in return. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Judiciary Committee, was among those who said Lieberman should lose his chairmanship. Leahy called Lieberman’s attacks on Obama “exaggerated.”

But at Obama’s urging, Senate Democrats decided not to punish Lieberman for his support of McCain and the GOP party. Obama was eager to set a bipartisan tone for his presidency, and Lieberman’s endorsement helped reinforce that message.

But Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent and staunch liberal, called it a “slap in the face” to millions of Americans who supported Obama.

Lieberman was known in the Senate for his aggressive foreign policy views, pro-defense bias and strong commitment to environmental concerns.

Five weeks after the attacks of September 11, 2001, he was one of the first politicians to call for the overthrow of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and later voted for the military invasion of Iraq. His vocal support of the war would later help derail his candidacy in the 2006 Connecticut Democratic primary.

Lieberman tended to vote with Democrats on most issues and was a long-time supporter of abortion rights, a stance that would have proven problematic with conservatives if McCain had chosen him as his running mate in 2008.

He played a key role in the legislation establishing the Department of Homeland Security.

Lieberman grew up in Stamford, Connecticut, where his father ran a liquor store. Lieberman graduated from Yale University and Yale Law School in New Haven. As Connecticut’s attorney general from 1983 to 1988, he was a strong consumer and environmental advocate. Lieberman entered the Senate in 1988 by defeating moderate Republican incumbent Lowell Weicker.

After leaving the Senate in 2013, Lieberman joined a New York law firm.

Lieberman and his wife Hadassah have four children.

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Former Associated Press writer Andrew Miga contributed to this report.

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