MARQUETTE - Local Democratic leaders said U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, will be sorely missed as he announced Thursday afternoon he will not seek re-election in 2014, concentrating his time left in office on key issues.
"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 said.
Levin, 78, was first elected to the Senate in 1978 - after serving on the Detroit City Council and as assistant attorney general counsel of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission - and re-elected five times, the latest in 2008.
In the Senate, Levin has served as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Levin said as he and his wife, Barbara, struggled with the question of whether he should run for another term, he said they focused on their belief that the country "is at a crossroads that will determine our economic health and security for decades to come."
"We decided that I can best serve my state and nation by concentrating in the next two years on the challenging issues before us that I am in a position to help address; in other words, by doing my job without the distraction of campaigning for re-election," Levin said.
Levin wants work on tax avoidance schemes, ensuring that the manufacturing renaissance that has led Michigan's comeback continues, the use of secret money to fund political campaigns and dealing with fiscal pressures on the country's military readiness.
"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. "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."
Ben Bohnsack, chairman of the Marquette County Democratic Party, said: "We're tremendously grateful for all that Senator Levin has done. He's given incredible leadership across the last 34 years, longer than any other senator in Michigan history."
Loretta Herman, chairwoman of the Alger County Democratic Party, said: "Senator Levin's retirement at the end of his current term will be a great loss to both Michigan and our country. He is a man of integrity and determination.
"Senator Levin has been a friend of Alger County and the entire U.P. He knows the importance of our Great Lakes, parks and recreation areas. We thank him for his years of dedicated service."
Bohnsack looked ahead toward the remainder of Levin's term in office and beyond.
"His hand has shaped countless issues of significant national policy for the benefit of people here, across the country, and around the world," Bohnsack said. "He says he wants, in these last two years, to focus on tax policy, manufacturing, campaign funding and military readiness, and I know we can count on him to work on those and more in the next two years.
"We've known that the day would come for him to let go of his position. While we'll miss his steady presence, we as Democrats will be working hard to elect someone new who will pick up that role with strength."
President Barack Obama said: "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 Sen. Carl Levin."
"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 rules. As chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Senator Levin is a true champion for all those who serve, and his tireless work will be missed not just in his home state of Michigan, but by military families across our country," Obama said. "Michelle and I wish Carl, Barbara and their family all the best, and I look forward to working with Carl over the next two years as we continue tackling some of our nation's toughest challenges."
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is email@example.com.