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North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad won't seek reelection in 2012

January 18, 2011|By Lisa Mascaro and Michael Muskal
  • Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) speaks on Capitol Hill. Conrad said Tuesday that he will not run for reelection in 2012, but he will concentrate instead on reducing the national debt and the nation's dependence on foreign oil.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) speaks on Capitol… (Associated Press )

Sen. Kent Conrad, a Democrat, will not seek reelection from North Dakota, a departure that could hurt his party’s chances of holding onto its narrow majority.

Conrad announced his decision Tuesday morning.

“After months of consideration, I have decided not to seek reelection in 2012,” Conrad wrote in a letter released by his office. Conrad, who has been in the Senate for 24 years, said he wanted to devote his time to other problems without having to worry about a reelection campaign.

“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,” said Conrad, who is chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.

Democrats and the two independents who caucus with them have a 53-47 edge in the Senate, a smaller majority than they had before the November elections, when the GOP increased its influence by gaining six seats.

Conrad’s decision follows a similar move by fellow Democrat Sen. Byron Dorgan, who announced last year he would not seek reelection. Dorgan was succeeded by Sen. John Hoeven, a former governor of North Dakota.

Conrad was expected to have a tough reelection campaign in a state that has become increasingly Republican. In 2012, Democrats will have to defend 23 seats while Republicans will defend 10 seats.

Democrats maintained they could hold onto the North Dakota seat.

“There are a number of potential Democratic candidates who could make this race competitive while we expect to see a contentious primary battle on the Republican side,” said Sen. Patty Murray, head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, in a prepared statement. “North Dakotans have a long history of electing moderate Democrats to the Senate, and we believe they will have an opportunity to keep up that tradition next November.”

In a statement, President Obama praised Conrad for his “unmatched dedication to putting our country on a sound fiscal path and a commitment to meeting our nation’s energy challenges. He has also been a good friend to me, and while I am saddened to see him leave the Senate, I look forward to working with him during the next two years on the important issues facing our country.”


michael.muskal@latimes.com

lisa.mascaro@latimes.com

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