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.
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.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.