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What does Lincoln Chafee believe? Where the candidate stands on 10 issues

BY and   June 3, 2015 at 10:53 AM EDT
Former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee says he has formed an exploratory committee to pursue the Democrat nomination to run for president. Photo by Jason Reed/Reuters.

Former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee is expected to announce his run for president today. Photo by Jason Reed/Reuters.

He is a former blacksmith who spent years shoeing horses. He’s also a former mayor, U.S. senator and governor in Rhode Island. He took over his father’s U.S. Senate seat, following a family line of Ocean State politicians that dates back to the 19th century. Lincoln Chafee is known for his Republican-to-independent-to-Democrat migration. Less well known is that he shared an 11-person dorm with Jeb Bush in high school. In 225 years of statehood, Rhode Island has never had a major party presidential candidate. Here is where Lincoln Chafee stands on 10 key issues.

Education: The federal government has a role in education standards. No Child Left Behind was worth trying, needed adjustments.

The former governor supports a federal role in setting or organizing education standards, with states getting significant flexibility in how they apply those standards. As senator, Chafee voted in favor of the No Child Left Behind Act. During his term as governor, Rhode Island was one of 11 states granted a waiver allowing more local control over standards. He has not announced a specific stance on the state-initiated Common Core standards, but Chafee supported President Obama’s “Race to the Top” initiative which was a move toward the Common Core. Rhode Island won $75 million in grants through the program.

Government power: Give government limited surveillance powers. Bulk data collection violates the Constitution.

While in Congress, Chafee voted for the USA Patriot Act and its expansion of government surveillance powers in the fight against terror. Since then Chafee has said he strongly opposes the use of the Patriot Act by the National Security Agency to collect Americans’ phone data en masse. The Rhode Islander argues that violates the Fourth Amendment and law enforcement must get a warrant before collecting any phone data.

Immigration: Give undocumented immigrants access to in-state tuition. Offer a path to citizenship. Federal, not state, officials should enforce immigration laws.

After becoming governor, the Ocean State leader reversed a previous state order directing Rhode Island state troopers to help enforce federal immigration laws. At the time Chafee said the state needed to be more tolerant. He has called for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and pushed to give them access to in-state tuition.

Marijuana: Decriminalize possession of small amounts. Watch how things progress in Colorado.

From the governor’s desk in Rhode Island, Chafee signed legislation that decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, making possession of any amount lower than an ounce punishable by a fine instead of as a criminal charge. During an interview with the Huffington Post last year, Chafee said there is appeal in increased state revenues from legalizing marijuana and he wants to watch how things progress in states like Colorado where the law has changed.

Obamacare and health care: Keep the Affordable Care Act. Move toward universal coverage.

Chafee supports the Affordable Care Act and applauded the 2012 Supreme Court decision that upheld key provisions. In that same statement, he stressed his desire to achieve universal insurance coverage. The Rhode Island lawmaker was an early advocate of health care reform, authoring the 1993 Health Equity and Access Reform Today which included an individual mandate and requirement that insurers cover people with pre-existing conditions.

Social Issues: Allow access to abortion. Legalize same-sex marriage.

As he told the 2012 Democratic convention, Chafee believes decisions about abortion and pregnancy should be left to the woman involved. While in the Senate, he voted against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, which was sponsored by fellow 2016 candidate Rick Santorum.

Chafee has long supported same-sex marriage. As a U.S. senator, he voted against a 2004 Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. At the time, he advocated letting states decide the matter. In 2013, as governor of Rhode Island, Chafee signed the Marriage Equality Act, making same-sex marriage legal in the state.

Taxes and wages: Reform tax codes by lowering rates and ending deductions. Limit the estate tax.

As governor of Rhode Island, in 2014 Chafee pushed through tax reform that lowered corporate tax rates by ending some large business deductions. That plan also raised the floor for the state’s estate tax, or inheritance tax, from $922,000 to $1.5 million.

Note: Chafee has not presented a specific plan for the federal tax system.

Trade: Approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

In a 2013 letter, Chafee joined 14 other governors in urging President Obama and congressional leadership to support a Trans-Pacific Partnership (or TPP) agreement, as well as other international trade accords.

Islamic State and Iraq: The 2003 invasion of Iraq was a mistake. To fight Islamic State, the U.S. must build alliances, including with Russia.

In 2002, Chafee was the only Senate Republican to vote against the resolution authorizing the Iraq War and believes the invasion touched off many of the region’s problems today. He told MSNBC in April that to fight Islamic State, America must forge stronger alliances and rebuild its relationship with Russia. The former governor opposes open-ended U.S. military action and supports contained strategies, citing the 1990 Gulf War as an example.

Iran and Israel: The U.S. should negotiate with Iran. President George W. Bush was right to support a two-state solution and “Road Map” for peace between Israel and Palestinians.

In his 2008 book, “Against the Tide,” Chafee called for a de-escalation of tension with Iran, endorsing nuclear negotiations. He has applauded a speech and initial effort by President George W. Bush toward a two-state solution and “Road Map” for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. In a speech at Brown University, Chafee criticized Bush as not following through on that vision.

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