Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) announced Wednesday that he would not seek reelection, the latest in a string of Democratic senators to bow out of the 2012 race.
Akaka, 86, said he would finish the remainder of his term before returning to Hawaii to spend time with his family. He is in his fourth term in the Senate after serving 13 years in the House.
"It has been a great honor and privilege to serve the people of Hawaii," Akaka said in a statement. He said he hoped to "spend time documenting my life and career, and serving as a mentor to future political leaders."
Democrats expressed confidence that the seat in heavily Democratic Hawaii would remain in their column, especially with President Obama seeking reelection.
"Democrats will absolutely keep his seat," said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "With a heavily leaning Democratic electorate and their native son up for reelection as president of the United States, we are confident the people of Hawaii will continue to have two Democrats serving them in the United States Senate."
But Republicans said Akaka's retirement opened another opportunity in a cycle with some two dozen Democratic-held seats being contested.
"The retirement of yet another longtime Democrat senator further expands the map of takeover opportunities and further strengthens Republican hopes for a new Senate majority in 2012," said Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "Hawaii presents an unexpected opportunity for Senate Republicans, and we intend to make the most of it in 2012."
Akaka is the third-oldest member of the Senate, but he remains Hawaii's junior senator. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, also 86, is four days older.