James Jeffords, the Republican senator who quit the GOP and threw control of the chamber to Democrats in 2001, has died at age 80. Jeffords was the last Vermont Republican to be elected to federal office. The former congressman and senator had been struggling with Alzheimer's disease. Born to a Vermont Supreme Court justice, Jeffords began his career in politics in 1966 as a state senator, eventually serving six terms in the U.S. House and then winning a Senate seat in 1988. Jeffords quit the Republican Party in 2001 over concerns it was becoming too right wing. By becoming an Independent, he gave Democrats control of the Senate following George W. Bush's contentious election. “Thanks, Jim” bumper stickers became popular in Vermont immediately after.
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