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Jeffords Will Not Seek Re-election

Despite repeated assertions that he relished another election fight, Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.) reversed course Wednesday afternoon and announced that he would not seek re-election in 2006. Jeffords reportedly did not take questions during a brief news conference in Burlington but he did try to deflect rumors about his health.

The junior Senator from the Green Mountain State said: “There have been questions about my health, and that is a factor as well. I am feeling the aches and pains that come when you reach 70. My memory fails me on occasion but [my wife] would probably argue this has been going on for the last 50 years.” he said, laughing.

Up until today, Jeffords had said he was looking forward to a spirited campaign and was ready for whatever Republicans threw at him in his quest for a fourth term.

Jeffords told Roll Call in February: “As far as everyone is concerned, they know I’m running.”

Today Jeffords said it is “time to begin a new chapter, both for me personally and for the people of Vermont. After much thought and consultation with my family and staff, I have decided to close this chapter of my service to Vermont, and not seek re-election in 2006.”

Jeffords temporarily put the Senate under Democratic control when he bolted the GOP in 2001, earning the ire of Republicans across the country who would have liked nothing more than to defeat him next year.

Rep. Bernie Sanders (I) has made clear that he is ready to jump immediately into any open Senate race in the Green Mountain State.

Democrats could give Sanders, who often votes with them, a pass while Republicans are expected to turn to either Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas or Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie for the Senate race.

Another Democrat to watch is Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle.