Political 'Retirements' Adding Up for Both Parties

Reports that Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT.) and Byron Dorgan (D-ND) are not seeking re-election this year are surprising to some but the two Democrats have added their names to a growing list of retirements from both political parties.


In the House, 14 GOP incumbents have decided not to seek re-election, while 10 Democratic incumbents have made the same announcement.

In the Senate, six Republican incumbents have decided not to seek re-election in 2010. Those include Kit Bond of Missouri, Jim Bunning of Kentucky, Mel Martinez of Florida, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, George Voinovich of Ohio? and Sam Brownback of Kansas, who may run for governor of his state.

Dodd and Dorgan join two other Senate Democrats leaving office. Roland Burris of Illinois, who took over President Barack Obama's Senate seat last year, is not seeking re-election after the controversy surrounding his appointment gave him little support from state or national Democrats. Senator Ted Kaufman (D-Del), who took over Vice-President Biden's seat after the presidential election, is also not running again.

Among the nation's governors, several incumbents in both parties face term-limits and are prevented from running again, but only three Democrats who can seek re-election have decided not to. Those are Mark Parkinson of Kansas, Jim Doyle of Wisconsin, and Bill Ritter in Colorado.

For Republicans, the number is four who are not seeking re-election who could: Jim Douglas of Vermont, Jodi Rell of Connecticut, Charlie Crist of Florida, and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota. Crist is currently running for the GOP nomination for US senate in Florida.

Aides gave no explanation for Dodd's decision, but it had been clear for months the Connecticut lawmaker, dogged by questions over his financial industry connections, might be voted out of office. Dodd's decision may well help Democrats hang on to his seat.

Republicans conceded that Democratic chances would improve in the event that Connecticut's attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, runs for the seat, and he told CNBC that he planned to do so.

Dorgan's announcement was much more of a surprise. Dorgan said his decision was not related to the prospect of a tough election battle this year but because he felt it was time to pursue other interests after 30 years in Congress. But polls showed Dorgan also faced an uphill re-election fight in a state that is normally conservative and votes Republican.

So far, Republican retirements for major offices outnumber Democratic retirements. Democrat incumbents have been hurt by a slow-to-recover economy while Republicans have faced internal battles with conservatives attacking moderates over policy and social issues.

Republican Party
Republican Party

But for Democrats, losing any more incumbents could spell an even greater worry, especially if they want to maintain their 60 vote majority in the Senate.

The party that holds the White House usually loses congressional seats in the first election after a new president takes power, and there was every indication that this would happen again.

The question may be just how big a loss it would be for Democrats if more of their ranks decide against re-election in 2010.