NRL News

Four More Retirements Shake Up 2012 Senatorial Elections

by | Mar 8, 2011

By Karen Cross, NRL Political Director

Karen Cross, NRL Political Director

Thanks to four high-profile retirements in recent weeks, the 2012 U.S. Senate races are already the focus of national attention. The announcements raise to seven the number of incumbents who will not run for re-election.

The most recent was today. John Ensign (R-Nv.)  announced this  afternoon he would not seek a third term. Ensign had a pro-life voting record.

Early predictions are that GOP Rep. Dean Heller will soon announce his candidacy. Pro-abortion Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley “is widely expected to jump into the race in the coming months,” according to POLITICO.

Ensign’s decision comes a little over three weeks after pro-abortion Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) announced on February 18 that he would not seek a sixth term. Earlier in February, pro-abortion freshman Senator Jim Webb (D-Va.) announced his retirement, and pro-life Senator Jon Kyl (R-Az.) said he would not seek a fourth term.

Most political pundits considered Webb’s decision not to run a huge liability for Democrats. The Democrats have a thin bench with much attention focusing on pro-abortion former Governor Tim Kaine, who has sent mixed signals about his intentions.

Webb defeated Republican Senator George Allen in one of the closest races of 2006. Allen, who has a pro-life voting record, has already announced that he will attempt to regain his seat.

Both parties have won state-wide races in recent years. In 2008 President Obama  narrowly carried the Commonwealth. One year later pro-life Republican Bob McDonnell coasted to a convincing win in the race for governor.

Bingaman’s open seat in New Mexico is considered a toss-up. There are a number of pro-life Republicans pondering a race.

In addition to Sens.Bingaman, Webb and Kyl, Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND), Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tx.) are retiring at the end of this term.

Senators Bingaman, Conrad, Lieberman and Webb have pro-abortion voting records.  Senator Kyl has a strong pro-life voting record while Sen. Hutchison’s record is mixed. (Go to NRLC’s legislative action center to see their voting records at:

In the current 112th Congress, there are 51 Democrats, 47 Republicans, and two Independents . Of the thirty-three U.S. Senate seats up in 2012, twenty-one are held by Democrats, ten by Republicans, and two by Independents who caucus with the Democrats (which includes Lieberman). In order to “flip” the Senate, Republicans need to gain a net of four seats.

From the Democrats’ perspective, Senator Conrad’s open seat in North Dakota is considered (at best) a toss-up. Several other Democratic incumbents appear to be vulnerable, depending on their opposition. That dynamic–along with Bingaman’s and Webb’s open seats–appears to offer a number of possible pro-life gains.

This is important, as the balance of power determines who controls the agenda. It often determines whether we can block pro-abortion legislation and/or send pro-life legislation to the President.

For example, on January 19, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2, a bill to repeal the pro-abortion, pro-rationing Obama health care law, by a vote of 245-189. (Go to NRLC’s legislative action center to see how House members voted: The House has a pro-life majority and its leadership is strongly pro-life.

Unfortunately, on February 2, we lost the effort to repeal the Obama health care law in the Senate by a vote along party lines, 51-47, with two not voting (Roll Call No. 9). To see how Senators voted go to The Senate has a pro-abortion majority and its leadership is strongly pro-abortion.

Remember, elections have consequences. In order to pass our pro-life legislative agenda (or to stop the pro-abortion one), we must have a majority of pro-lifers in Congress. When we don’t, babies die.

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