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Politics & Government

In YouTube Video, Sen. Harry Reid Announces Retirement From Senate


The leader of the Senate Democratic - the Senate Democratic minority announced today he will not seek re-election next year. Harry Reid was first elected to the Senate in 1986. He's 75 years old. As NPR's Brian Naylor reports, Reid's decision to retire shakes up the Senate Democratic Caucus and politics in his home state.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Harry Reid has been walking around the Capitol wearing protective glasses and bandages the past couple of months after suffering serious injuries while exercising on New Year's Day. In a video he released this morning, he said the injuries gave him time to do some thinking.


SENATOR HARRY REID: I have had time to ponder and to think. We've got to be more concerned about the country, the Senate, the state of Nevada than us. And as a result of that, I'm not going to run for re-election.

NAYLOR: Reid, much like his political opposite in the Senate, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, has been a master of the inside game and is known more for his bluntness than any soaring oratory. He called former President George W. Bush a liar and a loser. In recent years, relations between Reid and McConnell have become increasingly acrimonious. In 2013, Reid outraged Republicans by pushing through a change in Senate rules, ending filibusters against most presidential nominees. But McConnell sent out a warm statement, calling Reid a formidable opponent and saying nothing has ever come easily to this son of Searchlight; that's the tiny mining town where Reid grew up. Reid appeared on KNPR's State of Nevada program today and got a surprise caller.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Harry, this is Barack.

REID: Well, I'll be damned.

NAYLOR: President Obama praised Reid who helped shepherd the Affordable Care Act through the Senate.


OBAMA: You know, he's got a curmudgeonly charm that, you know, is hard to replace.

NAYLOR: Reid quickly endorsed Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, to replace him as party leader. Reid's successor as senator from Nevada is much less certain. Political science professor Eric Herzik of the University of Nevada, Reno, says it's a wide-open race. Herzik says much depends on whether Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval decides to get in.

ERIC HERZIK: If he changes his mind, the race tips overwhelmingly towards him and the Republicans. But a number of people said they weren't going to run when Reid was in the race. So I would imagine there are number of candidates, or potential candidates, reassessing and being pressured in terms of - hey, jump in or not.

NAYLOR: Reid endorsed former state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, saying it would be hard for her to lose. In the video he released, Reid reminisced about listening to baseball on the radio as a kid, hoping someday to be an outfielder. But he said being in the Senate has been just as fulfilling as playing centerfield at Yankees Stadium. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.