Maverick Jeffords Stumps for Texas Dem Senate Candidate

He's touted his ability to work with Republicans and Democrats, and now Democratic Senate nominee Ron Kirk is getting a boost from independent Sen. James Jeffords.

Jeffords, whose abrupt departure from the GOP last May gave Democrats control of the Senate by one seat, plans to help raise money for Kirk's campaign against Republican nominee Texas Attorney General John Cornyn.

The fund-raiser will be next Sunday in Houston. Kirk aides said it was orchestrated by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

"We support independent thinkers like Ron Kirk," Jeffords spokesman Erik Smulson said.

Kirk spokesman Justin Lonon said Kirk respects the fact that the Vermont lawmaker left his party knowing the decision wouldn't be popular with everyone.

"Sen. Jeffords is someone who is independent and certainly doesn't let party labels get in the way of doing what he feels is in the best interest of his state," Lonon said.

Cornyn spokesman Dave Beckwith said he couldn't believe Kirk would enlist the help of Jeffords, who "allows Senate Democrats to subvert the Bush agenda."

"He single-handedly stripped Senators (Phil) Gramm and (Kay Bailey) Huchison of committee chairmanships that were vital to Texas," Beckwith said.