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Former Rhode Island Governor Chafee joins Democratic presidential race

Rhode Island ex-Gov. Lincoln Chafee was formerly a Republican, the only one to vote against using force in Iraq in 2002

Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee formally announced his bid for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination on Wednesday, becoming the third candidate to challenge party front-runner Hillary Clinton.

Chafee, 62, a former Republican U.S. senator as well as an independent for a short time, announced his campaign in a speech at George Mason University in Virginia, just outside Washington. He became a Democrat in 2013.

"I enjoy challenges and certainly we have many facing America," Chafee said, adding: "Today, I'm formally entering the race for the Democratic nomination for president."

Chafee's entry into the race adds one more challenger facing Clinton, the former senator and U.S. secretary of state who is widely seen as the party's favorite for the nomination. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley announced his bid for the Democratic nomination on Saturday and liberal U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is also running as a Democrat.

Nine Republicans have entered the presidential race so far.

Chafee has touted his judgment and "level-headedness" as a leader.

"If we as leaders show good judgment and make good decisions, we can fix much of what is ailing us," Chafee said in his speech on Wednesday.

"We must deliberately and carefully extricate ourselves from expensive wars," said Chafee, who was the only Republican senator to vote in 2002 against the use of force in Iraq. He cited education, infrastructure, healthcare, the environment and a strong middle class as priorities.

Chafee served eight years (1999-2007) in the U.S. Senate as a Republican, and then switched his affiliation to independent when he ran for governor of Rhode Island in 2010. In his last year in the governor's office, Chafee became a Democrat.

Some longtime Chafee strategists and donors were surprised by his decision.

"He's not done anything other than posture on some issues," said Mike Trainor, a former Chafee aide. "The question he's going to have to answer is what credible indications can he give that he is at all ready to run a national campaign."

Clinton has set a goal of raising $100 million for her primary bid. Sanders, who entered the race last week, has said he's already raised at least $4 million. And allies of former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley have established a super PAC to support his efforts.

All three have begun building robust campaign operations with staff across the country, a step Chafee has yet to take.

In previous campaigns, Chafee has spent significant sums from his family fortune to further his political ambitions. In 2010, he spent $1.8 million on the governor's race. Running for president is significantly more expensive than seeking statewide office, with some estimating the cost of a successful 2016 campaign at more than $1 billion.

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