Democratic Senator Ben Nelson announced on Tuesday that he would not seek re-election next year, a retirement that is sure to dent the party’s chances of maintaining its majority in the US Senate.
In a video message posted on the Internet, the 70-year-old Nelson — a former two-term governor of Nebraska who was elected to the Senate in 2000 — said it was “time to move on.”
“There is much more that needs to be done to keep America strong,” said Nelson, a centrist Democrat who was criticized in his traditionally Republican state for voting “yes” on US President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform.
“And while I relish the opportunity to undertake the work that lies ahead, I also feel it’s time for me to step away from elective office, spend more time with my family and look for new ways to serve our state and nation,” he said.
“Therefore I’m announcing today that I will not seek re-election. Simply put, it’s time to move on,” he said.
Nelson often worked behind the scenes to put pressure on his party to soften legislation which he saw as too far to the left.
With his approval rating on the decline, he was facing what looked to be a difficult battle for re--election — meaning that the eventual Democratic candidate for his seat will also face a tough challenge at the ballot boxes.
In November next year, 33 Senate seats will be up for grabs. The Democrats, who currently have a slim majority in the Senate, are at a disadvantage with 23 seats to defend, against just 10 for the Republicans.
Nelson said that he would encourage “those who will follow in my footsteps to look for common ground and to work together in bipartisan ways to do what’s best for the country, not just one -political party.”
In a statement issued by the White House, Obama hailed Nelson’s “commitment to working with both Democrats and Republicans across a broad range of issues,” calling it “a trait far too often overlooked in today’s politics.”