Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., retiring

North Dakota senator won't run for reelection; says, "I want to make time for some other priorities"


Alex Koppelman
January 6, 2010 4:14AM (UTC)

With this year's midterm elections coming up fast, political observers are paying ever more attention to the inevitable wave of retirement announcements now coming on both sides. One big retirement was just announced: Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., won't be running for reelection this year.

"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," Dorgan said in a statement. He also named several possible factors as not contributing to his decision: It "does not relate to any dissatisfaction that I have about serving in the Senate," Dorgan said, and it "has no relationship to the prospect of a difficult election contest this year." After the latter, he added, "Frankly, I think if I had decided to run for another term in the Senate I would be reelected."

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Whether or not he's telling the truth about the role that the difficulty -- or lack thereof -- of a race this year played in his decision, it is true that Dorgan might well have faced a tough fight. Early polls from both Rasmussen and Zogby (along with one commissioned by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, for what it's worth) had Dorgan trailing badly behind Gov. John Hoeven, a Republican. The question has been whether Hoeven even wants the job. He was approached to run in 2006 against Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad, but didn't, and has been delaying a decision about this year. Now, though, the seat looks like a likely Republican pickup, even if someone besides Hoeven ends up being the GOP's nominee.

More from Dorgan's statement:

 

For the past year, I have been making plans to seek another six-year Senate term in next year’s election. Those plans included raising campaign funds and doing the organizing necessary to wage a successful campaign.

 

Even as I have done that, in recent months I began to wrestle with the question of whether making a commitment to serve in the Senate seven more years (next year plus a new six-year term) was the right thing to do.

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. It has been a long and wonderful career made possible by the people of North Dakota. And I am forever grateful to them for the opportunity.

 

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.

 

So, over this holiday season, I have come to the conclusion, with the support of my family, that I will not be seeking another term in the U.S. Senate in 2010. It is a hard decision to make after thirty years in the Congress, but I believe it is the right time for me to pursue these other interests.

 

Let me be clear that this decision does not relate to any dissatisfaction that I have about serving in the Senate. Yes, I wish there was less rancor and more bipartisanship in the U.S. Senate these days. But still, it is a great privilege to serve and I have the utmost respect for all of the men and women with whom I serve ....

Further, my decision has no relationship to the prospect of a difficult election contest this year. Frankly, I think if I had decided to run for another term in the Senate I would be reelected.

 

But I feel that after serving 30 years, I want to make time for some other priorities. And making a commitment to serve in the Senate for the next seven years does not seem like the right decision for me.

So, 2010 will be my last year in the Senate. I will continue to work hard for the best interests of our state and country during this coming year. We need to get the economic engine restarted and put people back to work. We need to reform our financial system to make sure that which happened to cause this deep recession will not happen again. And we need to get our fiscal and budget policies under control. The federal budget deficits are not sustainable.

 

But even as we face all of these difficult issues, I am convinced that our country will rise to the challenge.

 

We are a great nation. And I have a deep sense of optimism about the future of our country.

Dorgan has been in the Senate since 1992.


Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

MORE FROM Alex Koppelman

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