PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ John Chafee, Rhode Island's longtime Republican senator and former governor who earned praise even from Democrats for his moderate stance on issues, has died, a spokesman said. He was 77.

Chafee, who had represented the state in the Senate for nearly 23 years, died of heart failure Sunday night at Bethesda Naval Hospital, spokesman John Goodman said.

A scion of one of Rhode Island's most powerful families, Chafee was perhaps the most popular Republican in the history of this overwhelmingly Democratic state.

In addition to nearly six terms in the senate, his political resume included six years as governor, 3 1/2 years as secretary of the Navy and six years as a state representative, including four as House minority leader.

Considered one of the Senate's most liberal Republicans, Chafee earned high praise from both the American Civil Liberties Union and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce during his tenure.