Senator Mark Dayton Won’t Seek Re-election

Report: Dayton won’t seek re-election (AP)

Sen. Mark Dayton has decided not to seek re-election, according to a broadcast report. KSTP-TV reported Wednesday that Dayton had told his staff that he had decided against seeking a second term, citing difficulty raising money. The station did not name its sources for the report. Officials in Dayton’s Washington office declined to comment on the report to The Associated Press. The senator had a regularly scheduled conference call later in the day.

Dayton had been seen for some time as vulnerable in a run for a second term. After spending about $12 million of his own money in the 2000 race, Dayton said he wouldn’t do it again. But he struggled to raise money, and parted ways in the past few months with two top financial aides – both of whom had been brought on only a year earlier to help kick-start his fund-raising. But Dayton made no secret of his dislike for the process of raising money.

Republicans had been lining up to challenge Dayton. Among those considering bids were U.S. Reps. Gil Gutknecht and Mark Kennedy, as well as former Sen. Rod Grams, who lost to Dayton in 2000.

Minnesota is a state where both parties are competitive in state-wide races, so Dayton was clearly going to be a major GOP target in 2006, making the amounts necessary especially high. It’s a shame to have people drop out of public life because they disdain fundraising. (I certainly couldn’t stomach it.) Unfortunately, the need for non-stop fundraising, especially in the two-year cycle prior to re-election, is a fact of modern American politics.

Update (1535): It’s official: Dayton bows out of re-election bid (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., said today that he will not run for re-election in 2006. Dayton made the announcement this afternoon in a telephone conference call with reporters. “I do not believe that I am the best candidate to lead the DFL Party to victory next year,” Dayton said.
The senator made a brief statement and took no questions. He called it ”a tremendous honor to serve Minnesota in the past four years.’’ He said he wanted to keep the seat in Democratic hands and said he cannot do the necessary fundraising to run an effective campaign.


Dayton, a freshman facing a tough 2006 re-election fight, made the decision days after a Star Tribune Minnesota Poll showed his approval rating had plummeted to 43 percent and amid mounting concerns about his political viability. Republicans had already made the freshman Democrat their top target for ouster in next year’s election.

One source said Dayton told his staff in Minnesota and Washington of his decision shortly before noon today.

Dayton, a department store heir who tapped $12 million from his own fortune to finance his 2000 campaign, also faced a fundraising hurdle. He has said he would be unable to finance the 2006 campaign on his own, and would seek private donations, but had only about $177,000 in his campaign account at year̢۪s end. He has said his campaign likely would need $15 million or more.

I’m guessing substantially more.

“Captain Ed” Morrissey‘s assessment of Dayton’s decision is less generous than mine: “This time, Democrats, try to get someone who won’t wet his armor at the sight of a killer rabbit.”

Minnesotan Charles Hinderaker interprets: “‘Difficulty raising money’ could be, of course, a euphemism for ‘his party wanted him out.'”

Markos Zuniga sees it as a mixed blessing: “That was going to be the toughest seat to hold. Hopefully this is a blessing in disguise, giving us a Democrat candidate without Dayton’s baggage. But it’s tough to surrender the advantages of incumbency.”

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. BigFire says:

    No, he dropped out because he has become a joke.

  2. Mark says:

    By the way, he DID reopen his Senate office, right? 🙂