WASHINGTON — Senator Harry Reid, the tough tactician who has led Senate Democrats since 2005, will not seek re-election next year, bringing an end to a three-decade congressional career that culminated with his push of President Obama’s ambitious agenda against fierce Republican resistance.
Mr. Reid, 75, who suffered serious eye and facial injuries in a Jan. 1 exercise accident at his Las Vegas home, said he had been contemplating retiring from the Senate for months. He said his decision was not attributable either to the accident or to his demotion to minority leader after Democrats lost the majority in November’s midterm elections.
“I understand this place,” Mr. Reid said. “I have quite a bit of power as minority leader.”
He has already confounded the new Republican majority this year by holding Democrats united against a proposal to gut the Obama administration’s immigration policies as well as a human-trafficking measure Democrats objected to over an anti-abortion provision.
“I want to be able to go out at the top of my game,” said Mr. Reid, who used a sports metaphor about athletes who try to hang on too long. “I don’t want to be a 42-year-old trying to become a designated hitter.”
Mr. Reid’s tenure has become increasingly combative in recent years and included a procedural change on nominations that infuriated Republicans. He also came under fire for blocking floor debate, and even some of his Democratic colleagues suggested that he was stifling the Senate. Just this week, he alienated House Democrats who thought he was sabotaging a compromise on Medicare.
His departure at the end of 2016 will create an opening both at the top of the Senate Democratic hierarchy and in a Senate contest that would have been a megaspending slugfest in the presidential battleground of Nevada. Conservatives such as Charles G. and David H. Koch, the billionaire brothers who were a favorite target of Reid criticism in 2014, would have spared no expense in trying to oust him.
Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, who helped Democrats capture the Senate in 2006 and has led their political messaging operation, is considered the favorite to succeed Mr. Reid as party leader. Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, could also be a contender for the job, but it is unclear how strongly he would pursue it.
In Nevada, Catherine Cortez Masto, the state’s former attorney general, is considered a strong Democratic candidate with Mr. Reid out; the Republican field will be fluid and is likely to include Michael Roberson, a State Senate leader.
Mr. Reid had previously insisted he was running and said he was confident that he could have triumphed next year had he decided to seek a sixth term. The onetime amateur boxer noted he might not have even run in 2010 if Republicans had not made such a point of trying to unseat him.
He also said he was worried his race would consume campaign money that would be needed in other competitive states as Democrats try to regain control of the Senate.
“I think it is unfair for me to be soaking up all the money to be re-elected with what we are doing in Maryland, in Pennsylvania, in Missouri, in Florida,” he said. “These are big, expensive states.”
First elected to the House in 1982, the former trial lawyer and head of the Nevada gaming commission won his Senate seat in 1986 and joined the leadership about a decade later. Mr. Reid took over the top job in 2005 after Tom Daschle, then the leader, lost his re-election bid.
Read more: NY Times