In another blow to Republican hopes of retaining control of the Senate in 1986, Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr., a three-term GOP liberal from Maryland, said today that he will not seek reelection.
Mathias, 63, told a news conference that he is leaving the Senate to spend more time with his family, commenting that “the season has arrived to shift to a new field of activity.”
“Because of the necessary restraints and traditional procedures that regulate life in the Senate, it has been impossible to accomplish all that I wish to do and need to do and still be a good senator,” Mathias said in a statement.
Maryland GOP state chairman Allan Levey said: “I’m disappointed. I was always hoping the senator would run because I don’t think anyone in the state--in the Democratic or Republican Party--could beat him. This creates a problem because we were counting on him to run.”
Third Blow to GOP
Mathias’ announcement was the third blow to Republicans’ hopes of maintaining Senate control in the 1986 elections. In the last month, GOP incumbents Paul Laxalt of Nevada and John P. East of North Carolina announced that they would not seek reelection.
Republicans, who have a 53-47 Senate majority, were concerned about Mathias’ seat even before his decision because strong Democratic opposition was expected. Democrats Harry Hughes, the governor, and Reps. Michael D. Barnes and Barbara A. Mikulski have been mentioned as possible opponents.
More than two-thirds of the state’s registered voters are Democratic, according to 1984 figures, and Mathias has always been able to win by using his moderate to liberal views to appeal to voters in both parties.
Likely Republican contenders are more conservative than Mathias. They include former U.N. Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick; Rep. Marjorie S. Holt, who has announced plans to retire from the House, and Donald Devine, former head of the Office of Personnel Management.
Mathias’ decision also may affect key Senate committee assignments. Although he is second-ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, conservatives have opposed his assuming the chairmanship because of his moderate views.
Republican sources have said this has caused Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) to keep the committee chairmanship instead of switching to the chairmanship of the Armed Services Committee.
Mathias, first elected in 1968, has voted against several Reagan Administration positions, including the nomination of William Bradford Reynolds as associate attorney general. His committee vote scuttled the nomination.