Sen. Kent Conrad Retiring

Posted January 18, 2011 at 9:09am

Updated: 10:40 a.m.

North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad is set to announce his retirement Tuesday, a Democratic source confirms.

A Conrad spokesman told Roll Call that the Democrat would release a statement “shortly.” The Washington Post first reported the news.

Some Democrats already being mentioned as potential candidates include former Rep. Earl Pomeroy, radio host Joel Heitkamp and former state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp.

Facing a tough re-election, former Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) retired last year, and Pomeroy was defeated for re-election by Republican Rick Berg. Dorgan was replaced by former Gov. John Hoeven (R), who won easily.

The retirement comes even though Conrad already had radio ads on the air as the battle began early.

As Roll Call first reported Thursday, Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk (R) formed an exploratory committee to run for the seat.

In a letter obtained by Roll Call, Conrad, the Budget Committee chairman, wrote that he will not seek re-election in 2012. 

“There are serious challenges facing our State and nation, like a $14 trillion debt and America’s dependence on foreign oil,” the Democrat wrote. “It is more important I spend my time and energy trying to solve these problems than to be distracted by a campaign for reelection.” 

Conrad’s priorities over the next two years include putting the country “on a sound fiscal course,” reducing the country’s “dependence on foreign energy,” working on a new farm bill, advancing “permanent flood control for the Red River Valley” and addressing “the disaster in the Devils Lake Basin,” he said.

“Although I will not seek reelection, the work is not done,” Conrad wrote. “I will continue to do my level best for both North Dakota and the nation over the final two years of my term.” 

Conrad served four full terms after first being elected in 1986.

Roll Call Politics had rated this contest as Leans Democratic, but Conrad’s retirement suggests big changes in the race.