WASHINGTON -- Michigan Democrat Carl Levin announced Thursday that he would not run for reelection in 2014, adding to an exodus of experience in the chamber.
Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is the sixth sitting senator to decide not to run again. He said his decision would free him to serve both his state and nation best, by "doing my job without the distraction of campaigning."
In a statement, Levin cited four key issues he wanted to focus on in his remaining months in office, including tax reform, boosting American manufacturing, campaign finance and military readiness.
"I can think of no better way to spend the next two years than to devote all of my energy and attention to taking on these challenges," he said.
Levin, who was first elected in 1978, joins Senate veterans John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Republican Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) in choosing not to run in 2014. Together, they will have served 23 terms at the end of the 113th Congress. Only four current senators have served longer than Levin.
Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) is also stepping down, after just one term.
Democrats are considered slight favorites to hold Levin's seat, and his early retirement gives the party time to recruit a top contender. The state's junior senator, Debbie Stabenow, defeated a Republican challenger by more than 20 percentage points in 2012.
"I am confident that we will recruit a great Democratic leader who will continue to fight for the values and priorities Senator Levin advocated for all these years. We fully expect to keep Michigan blue in November 2014," said Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, who chairs the Senate Democrats' campaign committee.
Thirty-five Senate seats will be contested in the 2014 midterm elections. Democrats hold 21 of them, Republicans 14.
Levin, 78, has an older brother, Sander, who represents Michigan in the House of Representatives.