WASHINGTON, June 3 (Reuters) - Former Rhode Island Governor 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."
Although his 2016 bid is a long shot, Chafee's entry into the race adds one more challenger facing Clinton, the former senator and U.S. secretary of state.
Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley announced his bid for the Democratic nomination on Saturday and liberal U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is also running as a Democrat.
Nine Republicans have entered the presidential race so far hoping to secure their party's nomination.
Chafee, whose father, John Chafee, was also a Rhode Island governor and Republican U.S. senator, 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.
"We must deliberately and carefully extricate ourselves from expensive wars," said Chafee, 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.
"Without a doubt we now have prodigious repair work in the Middle East and North Africa. We have to change our thinking. We have to find a way to wage peace."
He promised that as president: "We will abide by the Geneva Conventions, which means we will not torture prisoners. Our sacred Constitution requires a warrant before unreasonable searches, which includes our phone records. Let's enforce that and while we're at it allow Edward Snowden to come home."
Chafee also proposed a "rethink" of the war on drugs, an end to capital punishment and for the United States to go metric.
"Only Myanmar, Liberia and the United States aren't metric and it will help our economy," he said.
Chafee served from 1999 to 2007 in the U.S. Senate as a Republican, then switched his affiliation to independent when he ran for governor of Rhode Island in 2010. In his last year as governor, he become a Democrat. (Reporting by Peter Cooney; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Emily Stephenson; Editing by Sandra Maler and Diane Craft)