Democrat Ned Lamont calls rival Sen. Joe Lieberman a "turncoat" in his latest ad.

Not so, says the three-term Democratic lawmaker running as an independent, and he has some party support in Connecticut to prove it.

Lieberman welcomed the endorsements Tuesday from several local Democrats, including the mayors of the Connecticut cities of Norwich, West Haven and Waterbury. "This is part of a very encouraging trend that’s happening," he said. "We now have a group of respected elected officials that are breaking away from Ned Lamont and are sticking with me."

Last month, Lamont stunned Lieberman in the Democratic primary, seizing the party nomination from the incumbent with a campaign built on his anti-Iraq war message. Lieberman filed as an independent candidate to hold onto his seat while several local and national Democrats shifted allegiances to Lamont.

Lamont dismissed suggestions that Democrats remain torn between the two candidates.

"I don’t know if there is any rift," Lamont said Tuesday, campaigning in Hamden, Conn. "I hear a couple of mayors or something are going their own way. That’s fine."

Lamont received the endorsement of one of the state’s largest unions this week. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, representing 35,000 Connecticut workers, announced it would switch its support from Lieberman to Lamont.

Lamont’s campaign is spending $93,000 this week on a series of statewide television ads that call Lieberman a "turncoat." One ad suggests that Connecticut residents should wear their coats inside-out to protest Lieberman’s general election campaign.

Lamont predicted the ads will appeal to his base and undecided voters. "It was a humorous look at a guy that’s been a lifelong Democrat who overnight changed his stripes," he said.

Ken Dautrich, public policy professor at the University of Connecticut, said it’s important for both candidates to campaign for Democratic votes, but added that unaffiliated voters will likely decide the race. Lamont won 52 percent of the Democratic vote in last month’s primary.

"I think that’s a pretty good indication of how the Democratic vote will play out in November," he said.

Unaffiliated voters outnumber Republicans and Democrats in Connecticut, where polls show Lieberman leading Lamont and Republican Alan Schlesinger trailing far behind.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press

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