Senate minority leader Harry Reid to retire, endorses Schumer to replace him

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Senate minority leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, announced he would not seek re-election in 2016 and said he endorses Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York (background), to replace him. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Senate minority leader Harry Reid said Friday he won’t seek re-election in 2016 and picked New York Sen. Charles Schumer as his successor for the leadership post.

The fifth-term Nevada Democrat had denied retirement rumors for months after they grew louder when he suffered serious injuries in an exercising accident on New Year’s Day.

He said in a video posted on Twitter and Youtube that the bruises were “nothing” but added “this accident has caused us for the first time to have a little bit of downtime … time to ponder and to think.”

President Barack Obama praised Reid, calling into an NPR interview the Nevada senator was giving to say Reid was “one of my best partners and best friends.”

“Harry is unique and he’s got that curmudgeonly charm that is hard to replace,” Obama told Nevada Public Radio. “I’m going to miss him. But the good thing is that I’m going to leave this place at the same time.”

Reid was a top Republican target and expecting a fierce re-election fight, and he says in the video he feels it would be “inappropriate” for him to “soak up all those resources” while Democrats have a real shot at taking back the Senate.

In an interview with the New York Times, Reid notes many of Democrats’ top targets are in big, expensive states, naming Pennsylvania, Missouri, Florida and Maryland as examples.

“The decision I made has absolutely nothing to do with my injury and it has nothing to do with my being majority leader and it certainly has nothing to do with my ability to be re-elected because the path to re-election is much easier than it probably has been any time that I’ve run for re-election,” he says in the video.

A member of Reid’s staff said the senator made the decision to retire with his family around Christmas but told his staff he wanted two months or so to sit on it before announcing it.

When his eye injury happened, it became clearer to him that he should retire. He hesitated, however, because he didn’t want the decision to be seen as a result of his injury.

This aide says Reid has been telling people in private meetings that it’s not so much about how he feels physically, which he says is great — the decision was based on how he would feel in eight years, which remains an open question.

Reid, the source said, doesn’t want to be one of the senators who’s perceived to have stayed in the Senate past his prime. Reid told the New York Times: “I want to be able to go out at the top of my game.”

The notorious sports fan and boxer added: “I don’t want to be a 42-year-old trying to become a designated hitter.”

In interviews Friday afternoon, Reid named Schumer as the person he would like to replace him in his leadership post.

“It’s the caucus’ decision, but he thinks Sen. Schumer has earned it,” Reid’s spokesman Adam Jentleson said, adding Reid has also expressed his views to Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, who was also considered a possible replacement.

A top Democrat said Schumer intends to start making calls to some of his fellow Democratic senators, trying to begin the process of succeeding Reid. One source close to Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat, said it’s too soon to rule him out of the fight.

Schumer issued a statement within minutes of the announcement praising Reid as “one of the best human beings I’ve ever met.”

“His character and fundamental decency are at the core of why he’s been such a successful and beloved leader. He’s so respected by our caucus for his strength, his legislative acumen, his honesty and his determination. He has left a major mark on this body, this country, and on so many who have met him, gotten to know him, and love him,” Schumer said.

Reid, who was first elected in the House in 1982 and to the Senate in 1986, rose to Senate Democratic leader in 2005 and served one of the longest tenures as floor leader in Senate history.