* Becomes sixth senator to announce retirement plans
* Democrats expected to retain his seat
* Was among most liberal senators
By Thomas Ferraro
WASHINGTON, March 7 Democratic U.S. Senator Carl
Levin of Michigan, a leading voice on national security who
opposed the Iraq War and has fought corporate abuse during more
than three decades in the chamber, said on Thursday he would not
seek re-election next year.
"This decision was extremely difficult because I love
representing the people of Michigan in the U.S. Senate and
fighting for the things that I believe are important to them,"
Levin, 78, said in a statement issued by his office.
In addition to chairing the Armed Services Committee since
2007, Levin heads the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
With Levin at the helm, the panel has investigated issues in
recent years ranging from money-laundering and tax shelters to
causes of the 2007-2009 U.S. financial crisis.
"If you've ever worn the uniform, worked a shift on an
assembly line, or sacrificed to make ends meet, then you've had
a voice and a vote in Senator Carl Levin," President Barack
Obama said in a statement. "No one has worked harder to bring
manufacturing jobs back to our shores, close unfair tax
loopholes, and ensure that everyone plays by the same set of
Levin became the sixth senator to announce he would not seek
re-election next year, following Democrats Tom Harkin of Iowa,
Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Jay Rockefeller of West
Virginia, and Republicans Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Mike
Johanns of Nebraska.
Overall, 35 of the 100 Senate seats are up for election in
2014, 21 now held by Democrats, 14 by Republicans.
The Republicans need a net gain of six seats to take control
of the chamber, now held by Democrats, 55-45.
SEAT MOVES TO 'LEAN DEMOCRAT'
Levin's announcement he would retire from the Senate when
his current term expires in January 2015 had been somewhat
Shortly after the announcement, the nonpartisan Cook
Political Report, which tracks congressional races, moved his
seat in the 2014 election to "Lean Democrat" from "Solid
Leading contenders for the seat include second-term
Republican Representative Justin Amash, who expressed an
interest in the past in running for the Senate, and Democratic
Representative Gary Peters, first elected to the House of
Representatives in 2008.
Levin said in his statement he would rather spend the next
two years tackling tough issues, like fiscal pressures on
military readiness and the need to plug corporate tax loopholes,
than running for a seventh Senate term.
"These issues will have an enormous impact on the people of
Michigan and the nation for years to come, and we need to
confront them," Levin said.
Known for his rumpled appearance and sharp mind, Levin is
the longest-serving senator ever from Michigan. He was first
elected to the Senate in 1978 by defeating a veteran Republican
In 2002, with Republican President George W. Bush building
toward an invasion of Iraq the following year, Levin was among
those who opposed the war.
Levin voted against authorizing the use of force and
unsuccessfully offered an alternative calling on Bush to pursue
a tougher U.N. weapons inspection program in Iraq.
Bush's main justification for the war was to eliminate the
threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. No such
weapons were found.
Levin has been among the chamber's most liberal senators and
also among its biggest defenders of his state's auto industry.
Levin was born in Detroit on June 28, 1934. After Harvard
Law School, he worked as a civil rights lawyer and public
defender before being elected to the Detroit City Council in
1969. He later served as council president before running for
His older brother Sander Levin has been a Democratic member
of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1983.