WASHINGTON – Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, an outspoken Republican critic of the war in Iraq who this year flirted with running for president, has decided not to seek re-election, say congressional sources.
Hagel informed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., of his decision on Friday, according to one aide, telling McConnell that at 60 he still felt young enough to pursue other opportunities. The Nebraska senator has scheduled a news conference in Omaha Monday morning to announce that he will not seek either the presidency or re-election to the Senate in 2008.
Hagel is the third Senate Republican to announce his retirement since the party lost control of both houses of Congress last year, underscoring the difficulty of being in the minority party. John Warner of Virginia and Wayne Allard of Colorado also have announced that they will not seek re-election.
With Democrats holding a fragile 51-49 majority in the Senate, the retirements have helped put the GOP on the defensive as it seeks to regain control of the Senate in 2008.
Bob Kerrey, a former governor and senator from Nebraska who runs the New School University in New York, has mused about running for the seat if Hagel did not. Kerrey told the Lincoln Journal Star he will disclose more about his own plans on Monday.