Dorgan, Dodd to exit Senate


Two prominent Democrats have announced that they will not seek re-election to the US Senate this year. One is embattled Chris Dodd (D-CT); the other is one of the lead players in Senate broadcasting politics, Byron Dorgan (D-ND).

The announcement from Dodd is not entirely unexpected – he has been in political hot water for months — it is not a good year to be Chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. His ties to the financial community have tarnished his reputation in his home state, and Republicans have been practically tripping over one another in the intramural battle to oppose Dodd in November.

The Dorgan announcement came out of the blue. He is well-liked by voters in his state, but there has been a possibility that popular former Republican Governor John Hoeven would challenge for the seat. Early polls showed Hoeven with a serious advantage in the presidentially-red state, and at best observers have said Dorgan would face a very competitive contest should Hoeven get in. However, Dorgan said that is not why he is retiring.

Dodd has not had a prominent role in communications matters, but as a member of the Commerce Committee, Dorgan has taken a lead role. A foe of former FCC Chairman Michael Powell’s broadcast ownership deregulation blueprint, he introduced and shepherded the Resolution of Disapproval through the Senate repudiating the FCC’s June 2003 ownership rulemaking and has been a prominent voice in most other communications issues.

RBR-TVBR observation: In terms of balance of power within the Senate, early guesses are that the dual retirement may prove to be a wash. Democrats are weakened in North Dakota, but their prospects may improve in Connecticut.

The Democrats may have a strong replacement candidate for Dorgan in At-Large Rep. Earl Pomeroy. The other senator from the state, Kent Conrad, is also a Democrat, so the voters there are not strangers to pulling the lever in the (D) column. But the state provides a reliable three electoral votes for Republican presidential candidates and Dorgan may have had trouble retaining his seat. It is a great opportunity for the Republicans.

[Update in ND: According to reports, Hoeven is in, and Pomeroy will not challenge.]

Meanwhile, in Connecticut, Dodd seemed to be having a very difficult time regaining his former popularity. His exit may allow the Democrats to field a much more competitive candidate against whoever emerges from the Republican contest. Popular State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has already jumped into the race.