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Conrad: 'That's my decision' not to run, Senator 'flattered' by Facebook appeal, but says his Senate service will end next year

FARGO -- Sen. Kent Conrad said Tuesday he's "flattered" by a Facebook appeal urging him to seek another term, but it won't change his plans to retire from the Senate.

"I announced in January that I would not be seeking re-election next year, and that's my decision," he said during a stop in Fargo.

In that announcement, Conrad, D-N.D., said he didn't want to be distracted from working to relieve the nation's debt problem and its dependence on foreign oil.

Former Senate candidate Tracy Potter started the Facebook appeal to talk Conrad back into the race. He said no one is better equipped than Conrad to tackle the debt problem.

Conrad said he learned of the appeal on Monday. He hosted a public discussion about the debt Tuesday in Fargo, and at the start of the question-and-answer session, City Commissioner Tim Mahoney put Conrad on the spot about his decision not to run.

"I need to understand why you would walk away from such a critical time for our nation," Mahoney said.

"Any other questions?" Conrad joked at first, drawing laughter from the crowd.

Conrad noted he will have served 26 years in the Senate, longer than all but 92 senators in U.S. history. He also cracked that his wife, Lucy, "has aggressively told me that my term is about to end. You know what I'm saying. So my term is about to end."

Conrad said he has focused the past five years on convincing his colleagues to deal with the debt, and he hopes they do it before the end of this year.

"But I've given it my best shot," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Nowatzki is a reporter at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.