Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sen. Dorgan’s surprising announcement

US Senate Democrats were prepared for Christopher J. Dodd’s (Conn.) announcement that he would not run for re-election this fall. Byron L. Dorgan’s (ND) probably took them by surprise.

“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 said on Jan. 5. “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 US Senate in 2010. It is a hard decision to make after 30 years in the Congress, but I believe it is the right time for me to pursue these other interests.”

Dorgan emphasized in his statement that his decision does not reflect any dissatisfaction with being in the Senate. “Yes, I wish there was less rancor and more bipartisanship 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,” he said.

His action also was not related to the prospect of a difficult 2010 re-election campaign, possibly against John Hoeven, North Dakota’s popular Republican governor, who was reportedly on the fence about possibly challenging the three-term senator. “Frankly, I think if I had decided to run for another term in the Senate I would be re-elected,” Dorgan said. “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.”

His announcement is expected to have significant consequences. Not only will it probably make Hoeven the Republican candidate for the Senate seat, but it also may make it harder for Democrats to keep their fragile 60-seat majority. Earl Pomeroy, North Dakota’s single US House member, is their best immediate prospect. His seat there would be up for grabs if he tries to move over to the Senate.

Dorgan, who is second in seniority among Democrats on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee only to chairman Jeff Bingaman (NM), still has another year in office. “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,” he maintained.

“But even as we face all of these difficult issues, I am convinced that our country will rise to the challenge,” Dorgan continued. “We are a great nation. And I have a deep sense of optimism about the future of our country.”


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