Big Senate news: Conrad to retire – Lieberman, too?

The Fix blog reports on a potential Senate pick-up opportunity for Republicans in 2012 with the announced retirement of Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND):

North Dakota Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad announced today that he will not seek reelection, creating a potentially prime pickup opportunity for Republicans in a GOP-leaning state.

“After months of consideration, I have decided not to seek reelection in 2012,” Conrad said in a letter to constituents. “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.”

President Obama said in a statement that he was “saddened” about the news of Conrad’s retirement but added: “I look forward to working with him during the next two years on the important issues facing our country.”

Conrad, who currently chairs the Senate Budget Committee, has been in office since 1986 and risen to become one of the most influential — and intellectual — policy makers operating in the nation’s capital.

Conrad had been open about his ambivalence about running for another term and had taken several actions in recent months that suggested he was leaning against running again.

What’s the GOP bullpen in North Dakota look like? Read on:

And, Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk (R) had already announced an exploratory committee to pursue a challenge to Conrad. The GOP field is likely to expand considerably in the wake of Conrad’s retirement. One name already being mentioned is former Gov. Ed Schafer who served as the secretary of agriculture in the Bush Administration.

“Senate Republicans fully expected North Dakota to be a major battleground in 2012, but Senator Conrad’s retirement dramatically reshapes this race in the Republicans’ favor,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee communications director Brian Walsh.

Among Democrats, Pomeroy as well as former state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp and her brother Joel Heitkamp are seen as possibilities.

Pomeroy was defeated in his US House re-election bid by 10 points, so even if he does run, it’s doubtful the uphill odds will change in his favor.

Stay tuned to North Dakotan Rob Port at the Say Anything blog for the latest developments on this Senate seat. If any blogger in North Dakota knows the insides and outside of ND politics, it’s him.

In other US Senate developments, local news outlet NBC Connecticut – via Daily Ructionsis reporting that that Senator Joe Lieberman (I) will announce tomorrow that he is stepping down from the Senate:

Sen. Joseph Lieberman will make a statement on Wednesday about whether he will run for re-election in 2012.

He will announce his decision in Stamford at 12:30 p.m.

The announcement came in an e-mail from one of Lieberman’s press office staff members.

Kevin Rennie, of Daily Ructions, is reporting that he has learned that Lieberman will not seek a 5th term.

Lieberman, a long-time Democrat, was elected as an Independent in 2006 after losing the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont.

Since then, he has often sided with Republicans in the Senate, and there has been a lot of talk about whether Lieberman’s next run would be as an Independent, Democrat or as a Republican.

The Hill has more:

Lieberman’s announcement comes as former state Secretary Susan Bysiewicz became the first Democrat to enter the race against him.

Members of both political parties believe they have a shot at defeating Lieberman, who lost a Democratic Senate primary in 2006 before winning the general election as an independent candidate.

Not sure what the potential GOP stable of candidates look like in CT, but I’d definitely give the edge on this Senate seat to Democrats. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the GOP could win that seat, but even in last year’s optimal anti-Democrat climate the seat formerly held by Chris Dodd was still retained by Dems. I don’t forsee that changing in 2012, but obviously it’s still too early to tell.

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