Longtime Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid will not seek re-election, he said Friday.
Reid, who sustained face and rib injuries earlier this year in an exercise accident, made the announcement in a video to supporters .
"This accident has caused Landra and I to have a little downtime," he said. "I have had time to ponder and to think. We’ve got to be more concerned about the country, the Senate, the state of Nevada than about ourselves. And as a result of that I’m not going to run for re-election."
Reid, who served as majority leader from 2007 until January, when Republicans took the majority, and his election plans have been the subject of intense speculation. Despite his insistence that he was running, he had yet to hire a campaign manager and his campaign fundraising was significantly lower than it had been in past election years.
Reid said he wanted to make sure his re-election was not taking up so much attention that it detracted from the Democratic goal of taking the majority.
"We have to make sure that the Democrats take control of the Senate again. And I feel it is inappropriate for me to soak up all those resources on me when I could be devoting those resources to the caucus, and that’s what I intend to do," Reid said.
Democrats need a net gain of five seats to secure the majority.
Reid, 75, told The New York Times , "I want to be able to go out at the top of my game."
His retirement marks the start of a competitive battle for the open seat in a swing state.
Without him in the race, Nevada Democrats pointed to a handful of Democrats who could run to replace him. Catherine Cortez Masto, the former Nevada attorney general, would be one possibility, as would Ross Miller, the former secretary of state. Rep. Dina Titus, the only Democrat in the House delegation, could also consider it.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee pounced on what it dubbed a "top pickup opportunity."
“On the verge of losing his own election and after losing the majority, Senator Harry Reid has decided to hang up his rusty spurs," executive director Ward Baker said in a statement.
He added, "Not only does Reid instantly become irrelevant and a lame duck, his retirement signals that there is no hope for the Democrats to regain control of the Senate."
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Jon Tester, whose 2006 election in Montana vaulted Reid into the majority leader position, sounded a note of confidence.
"There is a talented pool of Nevada Democrats who are ready to step up to the plate, and we will recruit a top-notch candidate in Nevada who will be successful in holding this seat in 2016," Tester said in a statement that heaped effusive praise on the party leader.
But Reid stepping aside also paves the way for an interesting leadership battle. Sen. Charles E. Schumer and Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin are Reid's top lieutenants, and he has been elevating more junior members of the caucus since Democrats lost the majority.
In late 2013, Reid told CQ Roll Call he had no plans to leave.
He is the third Democratic senator to announce retirement. One Republican, Sen. Dan Coats, said this week he won't seek re-election.
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