ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe and Amy Walter report:
Sen. Kent Conrad, D-ND, announced today that he plans to retire, a move that looks set to further complicate Democrats’ chances of retaining control of the Senate in 2012.
Conrad, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, hails from a state that has been leaning red in recent years. Last fall Republican John Hoeven won the state’s other Senate seat that had been held by Democrat Byron Dorgan, who also chose to retire.
“After months of consideration, I have decided not to seek reelection in 2012,” Conrad said in a letter to supporters today. “There are serious challenges facing our State and nation, like a $14 trillion debt and America’s dependence on foreign oil. It is more important I spend my time and energy trying to solve these problems than to be distracted by a campaign for reelection.”
Conrad said he intends to spend his remaining two years in office focusing on getting the country “on a sound fiscal course” and reducing the country’s dependence on foreign energy, among other issues.
“Although I will not seek reelection, the work is not done,” said Conrad, who has held the North Dakota Senate seat for the last 24 years. “I will continue to do my level best for both North Dakota and the nation over the final two years of my term.”
Conrad is the first Senate Democrat to decide not to run for re-election in 2012.
This could create a diffficult situation for Senate Democrats.
The bench of popular Democrats in the state is rather thin. Every statewide official in the state is Republican. Moreover, no Democratic statewide candidate did better than 37% in 2010. Another potential Rep. Earl Pomeroy, who lost his bid for a 10th term this fall, has just taken a job at DC law firm of Alston Bird.
“Insiders expect a crowded Republican primary. One source suggests that Lt. Gov Drew Wrigley would be a top choice though he looks more likely to run for governor. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem is another potential candidate that some Republicans consider a top tier choice.”