U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy says he’ll back the re-election of his independent colleague, Jim Jeffords. Leahy’s comment comes on the heels of word from Republican Governor Jim Douglas that he will support Jeffords’ re-election.
Jeffords plans to run for re-election next year for the first time since he decided four years ago to leave the Republican Party. The news that Douglas and Leahy will back Jeffords is going to make it more difficult to find strong challengers.
Democrats appear to be lining up behind Jeffords: Among the others who say they’ll support him are Howard Dean, the newly elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Peter Welch, the president pro tem of the state Senate.
Jim Barnett, the chairman of the Vermont Republican Party, says the GOP still plans to run an aggressive campaign against Jeffords.