Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) has announced he will retire and not seek reelection in 2012, opening up another Democratic Senate seat in a swing state.
Bingaman was first elected to the Senate in 1982, defeating a Republican incumbent. On Election Day in 2012, he will be 69 years old.
“It’s obviously not easy to make the decision to leave the Senate,” Bingaman told a press conference in Albuquerque. “There’s obviously important work to be done. There’s important work that still remains to be done today, and there will be important work that remains to done at the end of this Congress. But that will undoubtedly be true at the end of every future Congress, as well. I think the simple truth is there is no ideal time to leave the Senate.”
Bingaman’s Senate seat will, of course, be opening up during a presidential election year, and as such the election result could potentially be tied to the top race. New Mexico narrowly voted for Al Gore in 2000, then narrowly for George W. Bush in 2004. The state swung to Barack Obama by a landslide margin of 57%-42% — and Democrat Tom Udall picked up an open Senate seat that had been held by Republican Pete Domenici for 36 years. But in the 2010 midterm election, Republican Susana Martinez picked up the open governorship by a margin of 54%-46%.
During the question and answer period, Bingaman was asked what factors went into his decision.
“Well after 30 years, I think I’ve given this my best effort, and I think this is a good time for me to make the decision,” said Bingaman. “So a lot of factors go into a decision like that, but this seems like the right time, and that’s why I’m doing it right now.”
Similar sentiments were voiced last week by Republican Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, when he announced his retirement.
(Special thanks to the ABC affiliate in Albuquerque, which streamed a video of the press conference.)