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Kristen Daum, Published January 07 2010

Dorgan: Decision not made lightly

While Byron Dorgan shocked North Dakotans and some of his closest colleagues in Washington with his decision not to run for re-election, the three-term U.S. senator said Wednesday that he has been considering it for many months.

“This is not a decision you make lightly, and it’s not an easy decision,” Dorgan said. “I think it’s the right time and the right decision.”

Dorgan said his nearly 30 years in Washington have been “totally and wholly positive,” but he considered a number of possibilities that a life outside public office might offer.

“What someone doesn’t see here, is you don’t have much control,” Dorgan said. “When the Senate is in session, you can’t be elsewhere. You have to be within 15 minutes of the Capitol (for possible votes).”

“You don’t have control over the schedule of your life,” Dorgan added. “That’s not very pleasant.”

He denounced speculation about possible health issues or other problems that might have factored into his decision, reiterating that he wants to pursue other career interests.

Dorgan said he has ideas for what he’d like to do when he retires from the Senate at the end of the year – such as writing more books – but he hasn’t made specific plans.

“I have a pretty big appetite, I’m pretty ambitious, and I don’t like to sit for a long time,” he said.

But future jobs in public office, including the speculated possibility of a role in the Obama administration, aren’t out of the question.

“I don’t know that this is the end of my public service,” said Dorgan, who pledged he would remain active in North Dakota politics. “Who knows if there are other opportunities?”

Rep. Earl Pomeroy, who has served with Dorgan and Sen. Kent Conrad in the state’s delegation for 17 years, said he was stunned by Dorgan’s decision.

Dorgan told Pomeroy of his intentions early Tuesday. Pomeroy said he urged Dorgan to run again but understands the senator’s choice.

“He’s like a brother to me,” Pomeroy said. “I have to honor his thinking on that. … We’re going to miss him.”

Conrad echoed Pomeroy’s sentiment in a statement issued after Dorgan’s announcement Tuesday evening.

“He is the best colleague a person could ever have and an even better friend,” Conrad said.

Meanwhile, Dorgan has about $4 million in his campaign fund for his once-expected 2010 bid, according to the most recent Federal Election Commission reports filed Sept. 30.

According to the FEC, Dorgan has several options to dispense of the money under campaign finance laws, including:

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541