WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic Sen. Carl Levin announced Thursday he will not seek re-election in 2014, saying he wants to serve as Senate Armed Services chairman and an advocate for his home state of Michigan "without the distraction of campaigning for re-election."
Levin, 78, was first elected to the Senate in 1978 and is the longest-serving senator in Michigan's history. He said in a statement that he struggled to make a decision along with his wife, Barbara, calling it "extremely difficult because I love representing the people of Michigan" and "fighting for the things that I believe are important for them."
Levin is the sixth member of the Senate to announce his retirement, creating an open seat for Democrats in a state that has backed President Barack Obama twice but where Republicans hold the governor's office. Democrats, who control 55 seats in the Senate, have to defend open seats in West Virginia, Iowa and New Jersey in the aftermath of three other retirements and will try to hold onto 21 seats in next year's elections.
The last time Michigan had an open Senate seat was in 1994 and Levin's retirement could create a large field of potential successors. Rep. Gary Peters, a Democrat who represents suburban Detroit, has been viewed as a potential Senate candidate, while several Republicans could pursue the race. Potential GOP candidates include Reps. Mike Rogers and Justin Amash, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and Attorney General Bill Schuette.
The senator had won re-election handily in recent years and was considered a safe bet to hold onto the seat if he had sought another term.
Levin, who often presents a slightly rumpled, down-to-earth demeanor, is the younger brother of Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., and the senator's retirement will end one of the longest-serving tenures of siblings in Congress. The brothers were roommates at Harvard Law School in the 1950s, and when Sander Levin first sought political office, Carl served as his campaign manager. The congressman has said he intends to seek re-election.