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Sen. Christopher Dodd Will Not Seek Re-election, AG Blumenthal to Seek Seat

Source: Hartford Courant

Posted on 06 Jan 2010

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Democratic U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, a 30-year incumbent who has been struggling in public opinion polls for more than a year, plans to announce today he will not seek re-election, while Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said he will seek the seat.

Dodd is expected to announce the news at a press conference at noon outside his East Haddam home.Since making the decision not to run, "he's been in a great mood," said a source close to the campaign who requested anonymity. "A weight's off his shoulder and he's happy."

Dodd views the recently-passed healthcare bill as a crowning achievement, the source said.

"He went to Teddy's [Sen. Edward M. Kennedy] gravesite and spent time there after the vote... that was kind of a turning point."

His expected departure will shake up the state's political landscape. Among other things, it eases the way for a run by Blumenthal, who plans to announce for the seat later today. Blumenthal has long expressed a desire to serve in the U.S. Senate but has said he would never challenge Dodd, whom he considers a friend.

Blumenthal is "uniquely suited to step into this campaign, win this race, and represent the people of Connecticut in Washington, D.C. as we continue to confront unprecedented challenges,'' said Roy Occhiogrosso, a Democratic consultant. "The Republicans thought they might steal this seat. Not anymore."

Blumenthal has scheduled a press conference at 2:30 p.m.

For most of his long political career, Dodd enjoyed strong support and only token opposition. He was long at the center of a number of important battles and landmark legislation, including the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows workers to take unpaid time off to care for a new baby or a sick relative.

"He has been an extraordinary champion for many causes, but none less then his dedication to children and children's issues," said Jonathan Pelto, a former state Democratic party chairman who once interned for Dodd.

But Dodd's public approval ratings began slipping when he embarked on a long-shot run for president in 2008. His decision to move his family to Iowa, where he was competing in the caucus, annoyed many Connecticut residents.

His political problems were later compounded by revelations that he had received a VIP loan from Countrywide Financial, a now-defunct subprime lender.

The Senate Ethics Committee later cleared Dodd, saying it found "no credible evidence" that he received any special favors or discounts, but the damage had been done. Questions about the purchase of a cottage in Ireland and his role in the AIG bonus fiasco also hurt him, as did simply being chairman of the Senate Banking Committee while the economy was melting down.

His yearlong burst of advocacy on a myriad of issues, from reforming the financial regulatory system to taking on credit card companies to overhauling health care in America, wasn't enough: a Quinnipiac University poll in November shows that more than a quarter of the Democrats surveyed disapprove of the way Dodd is handling his job as U.S. senator, even though they overwhelmingly back the causes he has taken on. Among unaffiliated voters, his disapproval rating was 60 percent.

He was also facing a bruising and potentially very expensive reelection campaign -- Rob Simmons, a former congressman, and multi-millionaire Linda McMahon, former CEO of the World Wrestling Entertainment, broker and author Peter Schiff are his Republican opponents. Democrat Merrick Alpert and independent candidate John Mertens are also running.

In addition to his political troubles, it has also been a personal challenging year for Dodd, who is 65 and the father of two young children. He lost the man he described as his best friend in the Senate, Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, to brain cancer in August. And also over the summer, Dodd disclosed that he was being treated for prostate cancer.