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Lincoln Chafee Hopes to Win Over Democrats Looking Left of Hillary

Lincoln Chafee Hopes to Win Over Democrats Looking Left of Hillary

Lincoln Chaffee, the former governor of Rhode Island who signed marriage equality into law in 2013, is challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016, reports the New York Times.

Chafee announced his candidacy during a speech at George Mason University in Arlington, Va. He acknowledged his longshot status in his announcement, which included several references to Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, though Chafee never mentioned the former Secretary of State by name. 

"I enjoy challenges, and today we have many facing America," Chafee said in his speech. "Today I am formally entering the race for the Democratic nomination for president."

In May 2013, just hours after the Rhode Island legislature approved a bill establishing marriage equality, Chafee signed the bill into law, making the northeastern state the 10th in the U.S. — and the last in New England — to embrace the freedom to marry. Chafee first expressed his support for marriage equality back in 2004, when he was a Republican U.S. Senator. That's nearly a decade before Hillary Clinton announced that she supported the freedom to marry in March 2013.

The former governor, who began his political career as a Republican appointed to a vacancy in U.S. Senate left by his father's death in 1999, formally left the GOP to become an independent in 2007. That was his party affiliation when he was elected governor of Rhode Island in 2010, though he officially registered as a Democrat in 2013, notes the Washington Post. Facing low approval ratings and the prospect of a tough primary election last year, Chafee declined to run for a second term as governor. 

Even as a Republican, Chafee's politics skewed left, earning the distinction of being the only Senate Republican who voted against the Iraq war in 2002. His campaign thus far has highlighted that record, often noting that Clinton voted in favor of the invasion of Iraq.

A video shown just before Chafee took the podium in Virginia today made no secret of how the Democrat is positioning himself in comparison to Clinton and others who supported the Iraq war, notes Time

"I believe events occurring around the world threaten our economy and all that we hold dear," Chafee said in the video. "I would argue that the decision to invade Iraq has destabilized the Middle East and far beyond."

Chafee joins former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, and Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the race to win the Democratic nomination for president in 2016. 

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