Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) announced this evening that he’s retiring at the end of his term, a shocking development that threatens Democratic control of his Senate seat next year.
Dorgan was up for re-election in 2010, but the third-term senator wasn't facing any strong Republican opposition-- but was facing the growing possibility of a serious challenge from popular Gov. John Hoeven (R-N.D.).
In his statement, Dorgan said his retirement was borne out of the desire to spend more time with his family.
“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," Dorgan said in a statement.
“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."
Dorgan is the first Democratic senator to announce his retirement this cycle, with his decision coming one month after several House Democrats representing conservative-minded districts decided not to run for re-election.
Democratic Senate campaign officials only found out about Dorgan's decision within the last 24 hours. Dorgan began calling Senate leaders on Tuesday afternoon to inform them of his decision to retire, according to Senate insiders.
He had previously given no sign that he wasn't going to run for re-election or was even considering retirement and had been raising money for his 2010 campaign.
"It caught us totally by surprise," said an aide to one top Senate Democrat. "We had no idea this was coming. Total stunner."
Dorgan only told his staff of his retirement through a memo released one hour before he sent out a press statement. The White House received notice of Dorgan's decision earlier today, according to an administration official.
With Dorgan out of the race, North Dakota becomes a prime pickup opportunity for Senate Republicans. Dorgan was still enjoying strong popularity in public polls, and was favored to win re-election. But North Dakota has been reliably Republican at the presidential level -- giving John McCain 53 percent of the vote in 2008 -- and the president's domestic agenda hasn't been viewed favorably in the state.
Hoeven had been considering a campaign against Dorgan, and may now give newfound consideration to the race now that Dorgan is retiring.
A December Rasmussen poll showed Hoeven leading Dorgan by an astounding 22 points, 58 percent to 36 percent. Both candidates, according to the poll, held very strong approval ratings within the state.
Hoeven, a third-term governor, has rock-star appeal in North Dakota, with a majority of voters (53 percent) viewing him "very favorably" in the Rasmussen survey.
On the Democratic side, all eyes will be on Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), who represents the entire state in the House and has won his share of tough campaigns. But if Pomeroy ran for the Senate, his vacancy would mean House Republicans would have an excellent opportunity to pick up his seat...
Colorado Gov Ritter to retire
Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (D) will not seek a second term this fall, according to Democratic sources briefed on his decision.
Ritter, elected in a landslide in 2006, had seen his political fate dip considerably in the intervening years, and faced an extremely difficult re-election race against former Rep. Scott McInnis (R) in November.
"Bill Ritter was literally the weakest incumbent in nearly 50 years and his own party was unenthusiastic at best for his reelection," said Colorado Republican party chairman Dick Wadhams. "Colorado has certainly changed from that heady day at Invesco Field."
Colorado is now the eleventh open seat Democrats must defend this year although the other ten seats are being vacated as a result of term limits. Republicans also have eleven open seats of their own to defend. There are 37 governors races on the ballot this fall.
Shitty day for Democratic prospects! on the one hand Dorgan wasn't that great of a senator, still this is almost guarenteed to go Republican in 2010 now. Ritter's seat is more competitive but it still might have been easier to carry with an incumbent.
gotta get that recruiting on point guys...