It was a culmination of reasons--the deaths of his sister and his friend Sen. Ted Kennedy, his 2009 battle with prostate cancer, and his shaky political standing--that led Chris Dodd to decide on retirement, the five-term senator said this morning in a speech outside his home in East Haddam, Connecticut.
Dodd acknowledged, briefly, the reason for his tough chance at reelection--that "there have been times when my positions and actions have caused some of you to question that confidence," most likely a reference to his association with Countrywide that led to a drop in his poll numbers. "I regret that, but it is equally important that you know I never
wavered in my determination to do the best job for our state and
nation. I love my job as your Senator, I always have, and still do," Dodd said.
He also threw in some humor, noting that he's not just retiring to be with his family: "Now there is nothing more pathetic than a politician who announces they are only leaving public life to spend more time with their family. The result of this announcement today will, I hope, create that opportunity - but it is not the reason for my decision," Dodd said.
Here's the full speech:
"Every six years over the past three decades, I have invited you to join me at our home to share in my decision to seek election and re-election to the United States Senate.
On each of these occasions I have begun my remarks by observing that every important journey in life begins and ends at home. Today is no exception.
What is different about today, however, is not to announce the beginning of yet another campaign for the Senate, but rather to announce that after 35 years of representing the people of Connecticut in the United States Congress, I will not be a candidate for re-election this November.
I want to begin these brief remarks by expressing my deepest gratitude to the people of Connecticut for the remarkable privilege of being elected eight times over the past four decades to our national assembly.
You have honored me beyond words with your confidence. Let me quickly add that there have been times when my positions and actions have caused some of you to question that confidence.
I regret that, but it is equally important that you know I never wavered in my determination to do the best job for our state and nation. I love my job as your Senator, I always have, and still do. However, this past year has raised some challenges that insisted I take stock of my life.
Over the past 12 months, I have managed four major pieces of legislation through Congress; served as Chair and acting Chair of two major Senate Committees, placing me at the center of the two most importance issues of our time - health care and reform of financial services; lost a beloved sister in July and in August - Ted Kennedy; battled cancer over the summer; and in the midst of all this, found myself in the toughest political shape of my career.
Now let me be clear, I am very aware of my present political standing here at home; but it is equally clear that any certain prediction about an election victory or defeat nearly a year from now, would be absurd.
Strange as it may sound, I'm not confident I would be standing here today making this announcement if these situations had not occurred. None of these events or circumstances either individually or collectively is the cause of my decision not to seek re-election.
Yet together these challenges have given me pause, and to take stock, and ask the question that too few of us in elected public life ever do - why am I running?
On a cold morning two weeks ago tomorrow I asked myself that very question.
On the early frigid dawn of December 24th, Christmas Eve, with snow piled high along the streets of our nation's Capitol, I cast one of the most important, if not the most important votes of my years in the Senate - a bill to fundamentally reform the health care system of our country.
An hour later I was standing on the Virginia hillside at Arlington Cemetery, where Ted Kennedy rests, along with his brothers in eternity, as he is in history, wishing I could have seen the look in Teddy's eyes as the Senate took that historic step only an hour before.
I thought about the dozens of fine public servants, Democrats and Republicans, who have joined me in serving Connecticut over the course of my career at the local, state and national level.
I thought about the countless Connecticut families - ordinary people with extraordinary courage and spirit, whose lives have touched me, and whose stories have profoundly affected my decisions in the Senate.
I thought about the dozens of patriotic Senators with whom I have had the privilege of serving in an institution I dearly love.
I have been a Connecticut Senator for 30 years. I'm proud of the job I've done and the results delivered.
But none of us are irreplaceable. None of us are indispensible. Those who think otherwise are dangerous.
The work to make our nation a more perfect union began long before I was elected to the Senate, and it will go on long after I'm gone.
Our country is a work in progress. And I am confident it always will be. That is what I thought about as I stood on that hillside in Arlington on Christmas Eve morning. That is what I've talked about with Jackie over this holiday season.
And that is how I came to the conclusion that, in the long sweep of American history, there are moments for each elected public servant to step aside and let someone else step up.
This is my moment to step aside. There will be time to reflect in more detail on the years I've spent in public service.
There will be time to celebrate victories, mourn setbacks, share laughs and memories, and to thank profusely the talented, tireless, and numerous staffers, many of whom are here today, who have made my Senate work possible.
But that time is not now. My service is not over. I still have one year left on my contract with the people of Connecticut.
One year from this week, our state will have a new Senator. In the meantime, we have important work to do.
A few closing thoughts. I believe in bipartisan solutions, but I also believe you only achieve those results with vibrant, robust, and civil partisan debate.
I am a Democrat and very proud of my party's contributions to the vitality and strength of America.
I would never have had the opportunity to serve in the Congress had I not had the support and backing of my political party over the years.
I appreciate the passionate party activists who have never faltered in their support of my efforts.
I want to say thank you to my family for their tolerance of yet another generation of our family in the political arena.
I am especially indebted to Jackie for her fierce loyalty, unyielding commitment to fairness, and her unlimited capacity of empathy for the needs of others. She has been my anchor to windward in these stormy political waters.
Now there is nothing more pathetic than a politician who announces they are only leaving public life to spend more time with their family. The result of this announcement today will, I hope, create that opportunity - but it is not the reason for my decision.
I am a very late arrival to fatherhood, and I am told repeatedly how rapidly these young children - Grace who is 8 and Christina who is 4 - will grow up. So while these young ladies are not the reason for my decision - they will be an incredible benefit of my choice.
On this, the 6th of January, the Epiphany, 2010, I am still driven by the same passions that motivated me to try my hand at politics so many years ago. Just as I've encouraged the people of Connecticut, I am looking to the future with a spirit of optimism and confidence.
Finally, once again, thank you for the opportunity you've given me to serve."
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