The 2006 United States Senate election in Rhode Island was held on November 7, 2006. The election was won by Sheldon Whitehouse whose term in the United States Senate will run from January 3, 2007, to January 3, 2013. RepublicanLincoln Chafee was seeking re-election to the seat he had held since 1999, when he was appointed to fill the vacancy created by the death of his father John Chafee. Lincoln Chaffee won election to the seat in 2000.
Whitehouse was endorsed by U.S. Senator Jack Reed, U.S. Congressmen Jim Langevin and Patrick J. Kennedy, as well as by former candidate Matt Brown. Sheeler, a former U.S. Marine, a business owner, and an adjunct professor of business, ran on a more progressive platform. Ultimately, however, Whitehouse would trounce his competition in the primary on September 12, winning his party's support by a large margin.
Incumbent Senator Lincoln Chafee was one of the most liberal member of the Republican Party in the Senate by 2006, and was challenged for the Republican nomination by Laffey who had criticized Chafee for his liberal voting record in the Senate. In early 2006, the Club for Growth, a pro-tax cut political action committee, sent a series of mailings to Rhode Island Republicans attacking Chafee's positions and voting record.
Democrats believed that this was one of the most likely Senate seats to switch party control, due to the Democratic tilt of Rhode Island, as well as the fact that Chafee needed to expend part of his campaign fund to win the Republican primary election. Chafee's approval ratings also took a beating from his primary battle with Laffey and may have hurt him in the general election. Another factor that hurt Chafee was the fact that Whitehouse, the Democratic nominee, had a huge head start on him, as he was able to campaign with little opposition for at least half the year and had not had to contend with a major opponent until the general election campaign. Rhode Islanders' historically large disapproval ratings for President Bush and the Republican Party as a whole was another major hurdle for Chafee.
Whitehouse and Chafee very rarely disagree on political issues. Socially, they agree almost 100% of the time. Chafee is against the Bush tax cuts, indicating his ideology is liberal-leaning. On some fiscal issues they disagree such as on social security and free trade.
Chafee - pro-choice
Whitehouse - pro-choice
Chafee - support
Whitehouse - support
Chafee - strongly opposes
Whitehouse - support in federal level, but not in state level
Chafee - supports
Whitehouse - supports
Privatizing Social Security
Chafee - Partially Supports
Whitehouse - Strongly Against
Bush Tax Cuts
Chafee - Strongly against
Whitehouse - strongly against
Chafee - rated 55% by NEA, representing a mixed record
Whitehouse carried Providence County, which contains approximately 60% of the state's population, with 59% to Chafee's 41%. Chafee's strongest showing was in Washington County (South County), where he took 55% of the vote against Whitehouse's 45%. Chafee also took Kent County by a small margin, while Whitehouse was victorious by extremely slim margins in Bristol and Newport Counties.
After the election, when asked by a reporter if he thought his defeat would help the country by giving Democrats control of Congress, he replied, "to be honest, yes."