Fed up with Congress, Bayh will not run for third term

February 15, 2010
Evan Bayh

Sen. Evan Bayh, a prominent Democrat and former Indiana governor, is ready to announce he will not seek re-election, a senior Democratic official said Monday.

Bayh scheduled a news conference for 2 p.m. at IUPUI's University Place Conference Center and Hotel.

"To put it in the words most Hoosiers can understand: I love working for the people of Indiana, I love helping our citizens make the most of their lives, but I do not love Congress," Bayh said in a statement prepared for the news conference and obtained by The Associated Press from a Democratic official.

"After all these years, my passion for service to my fellow citizens is undiminished, but my desire to do so by serving in Congress has waned," the statement read.

Bayh's decision to leave the Senate was confirmed by three Democratic officials who discussed his announcement on grounds of anonymity because it was still pending. Bayh, 54, informed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., of his plans in a telephone conversation Monday morning, according to one source.

Bayh's departure continues a recent exodus from Congress among both Democrats and Republicans, including veteran Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, amid polls showing a rising anti-incumbent fervor in an electorate angry over high unemployment, mounting federal deficits and lucrative banking industry bonuses.

Officials at Bayh's offices in Indianapolis and Washington, D.C., could not be reached Monday morning because of the Presidents' Day holiday.

Citing the statement, which was not made available to all media, The Indianapolis Star reported that Bayh was discouraged by excessive partisanship, not his chances at the polls. "My decision was not motivated by political concern," his statement reportedly read. "Even in the current challenging environment, I am confident in my prospects for re-election."

Earlier this month, former GOP Sen. Dan Coats announced plans to challenge Bayh in November. Republicans believed Bayh could be vulnerable in the race given his support of President Obama's agenda, including health care reform and the economic stimulus.

But political news site Politico.com reported Friday that Bayh led Coats by 20 percentage points in a poll released last week.

Bayh replaced Coats in the Senate when Coats decided not to seek re-election in 1998.

Democrats will have to scramble to find a replacement candidate for Bayh's seat. Friday is the filing deadline for the May primary, although the party would have until June 30 to select a replacement candidate.

Bayh's name was among a handful of well-known Democrats prominently mentioned as possible vice presidential candidates in both Sen. John Kerry's 2004 run for the presidency and President Barack Obama's campaign last year. He was believed to have been on Obama's final list before then-Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware was selected.

Bayh served two terms as Indiana's governor before winning the first of his two Senate terms in 1998. He had until recent weeks been regarded as a near certainty for re-election, having raised nearly $13 million for his campaign and facing little-known Republican opposition until national Republicans recruited Coats to enter the race.

Bayh's name was already well known when he first ran for political office in 1986, winning the race for Indiana secretary of state that year. His father, Birch, won the first of three terms in the U.S. Senate in 1962 and was an unabashed Great Society liberal.

The younger Bayh ran for governor in 1988 on a platform of fiscal responsibility, reducing what he considered to be a bloated government bureaucracy and opposing tax increases.

His wife, Susan, an attorney, is on the board of directors for six public companies, including health insurer WellPoint Inc. and broadcaster Emmis Communications Corp.

Both firms are in industries heavily regulated by the federal government. Critics have questioned whether she should serve in such roles, saying they create conflicts of interest for her husband.

This story will be updated here.


Recent Articles by IBJ Staff and Associated Press

Comments powered by Disqus