Sen. Kent Conrad, a Democrat from North Dakota, will announce his retirement today, according to two major media outlets.

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza first reported the news Tuesday morning based on knowledge from "two informed Democratic sources," and Conrad soon confirmed it in an e-mail to the Associated Press.

Conrad has served in the chamber every year since 1987, and in 2007 rose to become chairman of the budget committee, a highly influential post that has permitted him to shape important pieces of legislation.

Conrad will retire before what looks to be a perilous 2012 election for Senate Democrats, offering the GOP a major pickup opportunities in a year where the upper house is for the taking.

Cillizza reported that North Dakota's Republican Public Service Commissioner, Brian Kalk had already been positioning himself to run for Conrad's seat.

Conrad was one of 23 Democrats up for re-election in 2012, including independent Sens. Bernie Sanders (VT) and Joe Lieberman (CT) who caucus with Democrats, as opposed to only 10 Republicans.

Conrad, a Democrat in a reliably red state, was slated for re-election in 2012, and has already faced a barrage of ad attacks from a right-leaning group. He was elected comfortably with 69 percent of the vote in 2006, a strongly Democratic year.

It hasn't helped Conrad politically that, as one of the chamber's more conservative Democrats, he was also facing a possible primary challenge from the left.