Sens. Dorgan and Dodd to Retire, Dems Should Hold CT, But ND in Peril

January 6, 2010

(ChattahBox)—The future political senatorial landscape just took a dramatic turn, with two Democratic senators announcing late on Tuesday that they would be retiring from office at the end of the current term. Sens. Christopher Dodd, a five-term lawmaker from Connecticut and Byron Dorgan from North Dakota, in his third term, indicated their intentions not to run for reelection in 2010. Dodd’s retirement comes as no surprise. The beleaguered CT senator’s poll numbers have been sinking in his home state and he was politically damaged from his association with Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo. But Dorgan’s decision not to seek reelection comes as a shock. He is a popular senator who has always breezed to victory in his conservative state. That leaves an uncertain future for Democrats in North Dakota. But in Dodd’s case, his stepping aside from the race in the liberal enclave of CT, actually ensures that the Democrats can hold on to the seat.

Sen. Dodd has scheduled a press conference at his CT home on Wednesday, where he is expected to announce his retirement, according to the Washington Post. Dodd, 66, has had a rough year, as he recently underwent prostate cancer and lost his long-time friend and colleague in the senate, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA). Dodd also never recovered from allegations that he secured sweetheart deals on his mortgages from Countrywide, although he was cleared by the Senate ethics panel of any wrongdoing.

Dodd’s retirement comes just two-years after his failed 2008 presidential bid. During his five-terms in office, Dodd amassed considerable power, as Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, ushering in the economic stimulus, the bailout of Wall Street and a sweeping measure to protect consumers from the credit card industry. Dodd was also at the forefront of the debate on the health care reform bill.

Now that Dodd has stepped aside, that leaves room for Democratic State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who is a popular figure in CT state politics, and should retain the seat for Democrats in a very-blue state.

Dorgan’s seat, in a heavily red state that voted for McCain during the 2008 presidential election, will likely revert to the Republicans in 2010. The immensely popular Gov. John Hoeven (R) has been considering a senate run. And now that Dorgan, 68, is out, he would have an easier bid for the seat. Democrats will most likely encourage Rep. Earl Pomeroy (ND) to jump in the race, but he has had a firm hold on his House seat, since 1992 and may not be inclined to risk it.

Dorgan’s statement on his website noted his 30-years in public office, saying that he made his decision to retire to pursue “other interests” not part of public life, such as writing a book and teaching:

“I have been serving as an elected official in our state for many years. Beginning at age 26, I served ten years as State Tax Commissioner followed by thirty years in the U.S. Congress by the end of 2010,” wrote Dorgan. Although I still have a passion for public service and enjoy my work in the Senate, I have other interests and I have other things I would like to pursue outside of public life. I have written two books and have an invitation from a publisher to write two more books. I would like to do some teaching and would also like to work on energy policy in the private sector.”

Dorgan and Dodd are the first Democratic senators to announce their retirement during the start of this cycle. Six Republican senators, in Florida, Ohio, Missouri, New Hampshire, Kansas and Kentucky, have already announced their intentions not to run for re-election in 2010.

Brian Walsh, communications director at the National Republican Senatorial Committee is ready to pounce, during a toxic partisan political environment along with a recession and high unemployment rates. “This development is indicative of the difficult environment and slumping approval ratings that Democrats face as a result of their out of control tax-and-spend agenda in Washington, and we fully intend to capitalize on this opportunity by continuing to recruit strong candidates who can win these seats in November,” said Walsh.

President Obama said in a statement: “Senator Dorgan should be very proud of his more than 30 years of devoted service in the United States Congress and to the people of North Dakota.”


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