Former Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont, the man who rocked the political world in 2001 when he left the Republican Party and flipped control of the Senate to the Democrats, has died at age 80, the Burlington Free Press reports.
The newspaper also reports that at the time of his retirement from the Senate in 2006, Jeffords was in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, and since then he has been cared for at a facility near Washington, D.C.
Jeffords was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1974, and then moved up to the Senate in 1988. During that time he was known as a moderate or even liberal Republican — a brand of politician that was disappearing from the political landscape.
Then in the late spring of 2001, at a time when both the Republicans and the Democrats had 50 seats each in the Senate, he switched to become an independent and caucused with the Democrats, declaring that he could no longer support the policies of President George W. Bush and the Republican leadership. The Democrats then held the majority for about a year and a half, until they lost it once more in the 2002 elections, and Jeffords remained as a member of the Democratic caucus until his retirement in 2006.