As Sen. Chris Dodd prepares to hold a news conference about his decision to not seek re-election, state Democratic leaders say they are surprised by his decision, the people Dodd represents have mixed thoughts and those vying for his seat said they are ready for a change.
Leaders of the state’s Democratic party said they were surprised by Dodd’s decision not to run. They tell NBC Connecticut that they heard nothing about it until about 9 p.m. on Tuesday, when rumors started to circulate.
In the 12 hours to follow, the Democratic landscape for the U.S. Senate race took a major with Attorney General Richard Blumenthal saying Wednesday morning that he plans to enter the race. He is expected to make an official announcement around 2:30 p.m.
"I can understand. He has really had a remarkable history of public service,” he said of Dodd.
Residents' reaction was mixed over Dodd's decision to bow out. Most people NBC Connecticut spoke with felt this was the right move to make, they are ready for change and didn't feel Dodd would win.
"I think it's a sad day for Connecticut. He's served us well for a long time and I'm sorry to see him go. I think whoever replaces him will have some very big shoes to fill," Steve Albrecht, of East Haddam, said.
As chairman of the powerful Senate Banking Committee, Dodd was in part responsible for the rules that allowed for AIG to hand out millions of dollars in bonuses to executives after the company received billions in taxpayer bailout money.
He was also closely associated with Angelo Mozilo, CEO of Countrywide Mortgage, the company that many point to as playing a key role in the country's sub-prime mortgage crisis. Dodd was never able to shake allegations that he received sweetheart deals on two mortgages from countrywide, including his home in East Haddam despite denying special treatment.
"It didn't help any, so it's fine with me that he's not running again,” Brian McDougall, of East Haddam, said. “I guess I thought that he was going to run. But he probably knew he couldn't make it."
As recently as Monday, Dodd brushed off speculation that he might not run.
"It seems like the vultures have been circling over him and rather than be a target for them, he's gotten out of the way," Steve Albrecht, of East Haddam, said.
Dana Kopp, of Haddam, was not sure if Dodd would have been able to win if he stayed in the race.
“I don't know. I think it would be a toss up,” Kopp said. “I think he is popular. I think it would be a close race."
What some residents are surprised by is Blumenthal’s decision to throw his hat into the ring.
The reaction is mixed. Several said they think he would do a great job as a senator, but they will miss him as the attorney general.
Word from some of the candidates vying for the seat Dodd now holds is that they welcome the decision.
"I want to thank Senator Chris Dodd for his long service in Congress,” Former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons said in a statement he released on Wednesday morning. “While our disagreements have been profound, Heidi and I wish him and his family all the best.”
Simmons and Linda McMahon, the former CEO of WWE, are two of several candidates in a rather crowded race and said they feel it’s time for a change.
“Linda McMahon's appeal in this race from day one has been that she's an outsider with real world experience at a time when it’s clear Washington has lost its way and career politicians just don't get it. None of that changes. Linda is committed to winning in November,” her spokesperson, Ed Patru, said.
"Nothing really changes in my strategy today because my campaign has been about an outsider's perspective and really what I have found as I've traveled around the state is that our citizens are looking for something different in Washington," McMahon said. "They aren't looking for a career politician."
“Today's announcement does not change my plan to seek and win the Senate seat from Connecticut,” Simmons said. "Whoever the Democratic nominee is, he or she will have to defend the failed Democratic policies of higher taxes, bigger government, exploding debt, and a misguided approach to national security that treats terrorists as mere criminals rather than the enemy combatants that they are."
Simmons says that several policies in Washington contributed to Dodd’s troubles and Blumenthal will have to deal with them during his campaign.
"The failure of the housing and financial services sector of our economy, the expense of the Tarp and the failure of the stimulus package, the credit card reform, the closing of Guantanamo and the failure to connect the dots on the Christmas terrorist attack,” he said. “These are issues that Attorney General Blumenthal is now going to have to address so I would argue that just because you change the face doesn't mean you change the race."