Elections | Nation

Former Vermont Sen. Jeffords, Who Once Tipped Senate Scale, Dies

NPR | Aug. 19, 2014 10:18 a.m.

Contributed By:

Dana Farrington

Former Vermont Sen. James Jeffords died Monday at the age of 80, a former aide said.

Former Vermont Sen. James Jeffords died Monday at the age of 80, a former aide said.

Mark Wilson, Getty Images

Former Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont died Monday, a former aide said. He was 80 years old and living in a retirement community in Washington.

His exit from the Republican Party in 2001 to become an independent shifted the power of the Senate to Democrats.

“Jeffords’ decision caused a national uproar,” reports Vermont Public Radio’s Steve Zind. However, he tells our Newscast Desk, Jeffords’ “long-standing moderate-to-liberal views and his work on education and environmental issues were a comfortable fit for many of his constituents who continued to support him.”

(Jeffords is not alone in his defection, as NPR’s Alan Greenblatt noted in this 2012 roundup.)

Republicans were able to reclaim control of the Senate 18 months later.

Jeffords did not seek re-election in 2006, “citing his and his wife’s health problems,” The Boston Globe reports. His wife died in 2007 after battling cancer, the paper notes.

Jeffords had a career spanning more than three decades. The Globe has this background:

“He won election to the House in 1974 as a Republican. The post-Watergate year was a strong one for Democrats nationally, but Jeffords was running as Vermont was just beginning his shift from a century of solid Republicanism to its current status as among the most liberal states.

“The Rutland native, a graduate of Yale and Harvard Law School, already had won statewide office as attorney general and was from a well-known Vermont Republican family. His father, Olin Jeffords, had been chief justice of the state Supreme Court.”

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