Born: Searchight, Nev.
Education: Utah State University, George Washington University Law School
Career: U.S. Capitol police officer; Henderson, Nev., city attorney; state assemblyman, 1968-1971; Nevada lieutenant govenror, 1971-1974; chairman, Nevada Gaming Commission, 1977-1981; U.S. representative, 1983-1987; U.S. Senate, 1987-present; Senate majority leader, 2007-2014. Currently Senate minority leader
Family: wife, five children
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a pugnacious tactician who united Democrats to help deliver tough victories for President Barack Obama, said Friday he’s retiring when his term ends next year.
He immediately endorsed brash New York Sen. Chuck Schumer to succeed him as the chamber’s top Democrat.
Reid, 75, rose from hardscrabble beginnings in Nevada. Friends said his doggedness and indifference to popularity helped rebuff Republicans who fiercely oppose Obama on health care, spending, immigration and other issues.
But critics say Reid — given to harsh comments that even included telling President George W. Bush his dog was fat — added to Washington’s poisonous partisanship, particularly by changing Senate filibuster rules in 2013 to enable Obama to appoint more judges.
Reid reinforced that image in Friday’s announcement with a warning to his Republican counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“My friend, Senator McConnell, don’t be too elated,” he said. “I’m going to be here for 22 months and you know what I’m going to be doing? The same thing I’ve done since I first came to the Senate.”
On Friday, Schumer seized the inside track to succeed Reid, winning a pledge of support from potential rival Dick Durbin of Illinois. Durbin is currently Reid’s No. 2; Schumer is No. 3.
Stylistically, Reid and Schumer are miles apart. Schumer is voluble, outgoing and eager to talk campaign strategy, on TV or anywhere else. He sometimes works with Republicans, including on an unsuccessful effort to overhaul immigration laws in 2013.
But Schumer, 64, is a partisan fighter too. He headed the party’s Senate campaign operations in 2006 and 2008, when Democrats made sizable gains. Colleagues’ gratitude helped him surpass Durbin as Reid’s likely successor.
Reid, who came to Congress in 1982, lost his role as Senate majority leader when last fall’s elections swept Republicans into power. He suffered serious eye and facial injuries on New Year’s Day while exercising at his Nevada home, but denied that played a role in his decision.
He typically has won Nevada elections by narrow margins, and Republicans were heavily targeting him in 2016. Both parties now plan all-out bids for his open seat.
In a video statement Friday, Reid said Democrats must retake the Senate majority and “it is inappropriate for me to soak up all those resources” while remaining the caucus leader.
Obama called Reid “a fighter” who pushed for jobs, better health care and a safer environment. He also called the senator a friend, though the two aren’t exactly cozy.
Most tributes to Reid on Friday, regardless of political party, used words like “fighter” to describe the former amateur boxer.
“Harry Reid has always been a tough advocate for the people of Nevada, and I have always appreciated the candid and straightforward nature of our relationship,” said House Speaker John Boehner.
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Credit: Ben Hendren for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution