Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., announced Monday that he will not run for a third term in 2010, unhappily bowing to pressure from Republican leaders who had urged him to retire.
After a decade in the Senate, Bunning, a baseball Hall of Fame member, had seen his political star fade in the Bluegrass State, to the point that Republicans feared his seat would fall to Democrats next November if he remained on the ballot. Led by fellow Kentuckian and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, GOP leaders mounted an unsubtle campaign in recent months to persuade Bunning to hang up his spikes.
Bunning gave in to their entreaties Monday, but not before making sure to assign some blame, particularly for his anemic campaign war chest.
“Over the past year, some of the leaders of the Republican Party in the Senate have done everything in their power to dry up my fundraising,” Bunning said in a statement. “The simple fact is that I have not raised the funds necessary to run an effective campaign for the U.S. Senate. For this reason, I will not be a candidate for re-election in 2010.”
Bunning’s fundraising had lagged for months. After collecting just $263,000 in the first three months of the year, Bunning brought in a meager $305,000 from April 1 to June 30. By contrast, state Attorney General Jack Conway raised $1.3 million in the latest quarter as he battles Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo in the Senate Democratic primary.
Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, whom Bunning had encouraged to open an exploratory committee while he mulled retirement, is now the most likely GOP nominee.