ND Dem Sen. Byron Dorgan Retiring

Lauren Victoria Burke

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) will not seek reelection this year. Dorgan has been trailing Gov. John Hoeven (R) in polls, even though Hoeven has not yet formally decided to run for the seat.

In a statement published on his website this evening, Dorgan said the potential for a tough race was not behind his decision.From the statement:

“After a lot of thought I have made the very difficult decision that I will not be seeking reelection in 2010. This decision is not a reflection of any dissatisfaction with my work in the Senate, nor is it connected to a potential election contest next fall. Frankly, I believe if I were to run for another term I would be reelected.”

Asked about the retirement, a Democratic strategist told TPMDC, “It wasn’t expected and comes as a bit of a surprise, but it’s not shocking. Senator Dorgan has served for a long time and it’s not surprising if he wanted to move on to a new venture or to no venture at all.”

But the loss of Dorgan leaves Democrats without a deep bench in North Dakota in a year when every loss counts if the party wants to maintain its 60-vote supermajority. Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D), the state’s lone member of congress, is an obvious choice but with Hoeven as popular as he is, Pomeroy would likely enter the race as the underdog.

For their part, Republicans are happy to see Dorgan go, and expect to add his North Dakota seat to the GOP column. Check out their take here.

Dorgan battled the White House during the health care debate, accusing the Obama administration of forcing the FDA to help kill his amendment to the health care bill legalizing prescription drug reimportation into the U.S.. The White House denied the charge.

He was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992 after serving as North Dakota’s congressman from 1980 through his election to the Senate.

Late Update: President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reacted by thanking Dorgan for his service. Read their statements here and here.

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