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Jim Jeffords, the former U.S. Senator from Vermont who famously left the Republican party in 2001, has died. He was 80-years-old.
Jeffords’ decision to switch from the GOP to Independent came in May 2001 and he singlehandedly took the Senate Majority away from the Republicans. As Vermont NPR notes, he remained in the Senate until he retired in 2006.
At the time of Jeffords’ switch, he said, “I have changed my party label, but I have not changed my beliefs. Indeed my decision is about affirming the principles that have shaped my career.”
According to the Associated Press, his former aide, Diane Derby, confirmed his death in Washington. He was in declining health, she said.
He retired after his fourth term to be with his wife Liz, whose health was declining. She died in 2007.
Jeffords spent most of his life in Vermont and national politics. He was first elected to represent the state in Washington as a House member in 1974.
“While we are saddened by our father's passing, we take comfort in the knowledge that he lived a full life, from the hills of Vermont to the halls of Congress,” his children Laura Jeffords and Leonard Jeffords, said in a statement. “We will miss his kindness, his good humor, and his generosity of spirit.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy called him a friend and “a Vermonter through and through, drawn to political life to make a difference for our state and nation.”
Thank you, Jim Jeffords http://t.co/scNQKm5FE6
— Rep. Peter Welch (@PeterWelch) August 18, 2014