fb-pixel Skip to main content

Lincoln Chafee expected to announce another run for president, this time as a Libertarian

FILE - In this Oct. 13, 2015, file photo, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee speaks during the a Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas. Chafee, a Republican-turned independent-turned-Democrat, is considering a 2018 run for the Senate seat he lost to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse in 2006. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)John Locher/Associated Press

Former Rhode Island Governor and US Senator Lincoln D. Chafee is expected to announce on Wednesday that he is running for president -- again -- this time as a Libertarian.

Chafee, a Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat, joined the Libertarian Party in March and now lives in Wyoming. In 2015, he ran for president ran as a Democrat but dropped out after struggling to raise money and barely registering in most polls.

Chafee plans to make his announcement at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the Zenger Room of the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Chafee campaign manager Christopher Thrasher confirmed.

“If there ever was a time for a new party in Washington, it’s 2020,” Chafee said in a statement provided to the Globe. “For too long, the Democrats and Republicans have been stuck in their partisan bickering while the real challenges of our time go unresolved. The Libertarian Party offers a fresh approach to deal with these challenges head-on.”

He said his campaign will focus on “fiscal responsibility, protecting our personal freedoms, ending these senseless and counterproductive wars, and making policy based on truth.”


“There are too many lies in Washington,” Chafee said. “The American people deserve a commander in chief they can trust.”

From the Archives | 2015: A day on the campaign trail with Lincoln Chafee

The Libertarian Party will select its presidential nominee at its national convention May 21-25 in Austin, Texas.

So far, 53 people have filed paperwork to run for president as a Libertarian in 2020, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Pat Ford, chair of the Libertarian Party of Rhode Island, said Kim Ruff and Jacob Hornberger are considered the leading Libertarian contenders at this point. “I welcome Lincoln Chafee to the race,” he said, “with the caveat: Fasten your seat belts, it’s gonna be a bumpy night.”


Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson was the Libertarian presidential nominee in 2012 and 2016, but he has said he won’t run again. And Johnson’s 2016 running mate, former Massachusetts Governor William Weld, is now challenging President Trump in the Republican presidential primary.

Chafee’s campaign will be run by Thrasher, a Providence resident who served as ballot access director and convention director for Johnson. He said Johnson appeared on the ballot in all 50 states in 2016, and the 2020 Libertarian candidate is expected to be on every state’s ballot, as well.

Chafee is a son of the late Republican US Senator John H. Chafee, a former Navy secretary and governor whose name was synonymous with the Republican Party in Rhode Island for years. Lincoln Chafee was appointed to the Senate when his father died in 1999, and he won a full term in 2000. He soon bucked the Republican Party, opposing President George W. Bush’s tax cuts and casting the only Senate Republican vote against authorizing the war in Iraq.

In 2006, Chafee lost the Senate seat to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, and he left the Republican Party to become an independent in 2007. Chafee endorsed Democrat Barack Obama in 2008, and when Chafee ran for governor as an independent in 2010, President Obama withheld his endorsement from Democrat Frank T. Caprio, prompting Caprio to say Obama could take his endorsement and “really shove it.”

In 2013, Chafee joined the Democratic Party. But months later, amid low job-approval ratings, he announced he would not seek reelection.


Chafee now lives in Teton Village, Wyoming, but he still owns property in Exeter and Warwick, R.I., where he served as mayor from 1993 to 1999.

In June, Chafee told the Globe that he had registered to vote as a Libertarian in Wyoming.

“(The Libertarian Party) is what I’ve always been — fiscally conservative and socially liberal,” he said at the time. “They are against capital punishment, pro-choice, against war, strongly for the Fourth Amendment, no torture -- all these things that American has gotten away from.”

Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.