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Posted at 7:06 PM ET, 03/ 2/2011

Hawaii Sen. Daniel Akaka won't seek re-election

By Chris Cillizza

Hawaii Democratic Sen. Daniel Akaka will not seek re-election in 2012, the fifth Democratic or Democratic aligned incumbent to bow out already this election cycle.

"After months of thinking about my political future, I am announcing today that I have decided not to run for re-election in 2012," Akaka said in a statement. "As many of you can imagine, it was a very difficult decision for me. However, I feel that the end of this Congress is the right time for me to step aside."

Akaka, who is 86 years old, had been regarded by both parties as a potential retiree and his meager fundraising -- he collected less than $2,000 in the final three months of 2010 -- only added to that sense.

He joins Sens. Jim Webb (Va.), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), and Joe Lieberman (Conn.) on the sidelines for Democrats. (Lieberman is an independent but caucuses with Senate Democrats.)

Two Republicans -- Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas) and Jon Kyl (Ariz.) -- have announced they will retire at the end of their terms in 2012.

Former two-term Gov. Linda Lingle (R) has been openly pondering the race and would now seem more likely to run. She would clearly be Republicans' strongest candidates.

"With several strong candidates already looking at this race, even before Senator Akaka's announcement, Hawaii presents an unexpected opportunity for Senate Republicans and we intend to make the most of it in 2012," said National Republican Senatorial Committee communications director Brian Walsh.

But, the state's clear Democratic lean -- particularly in a presidential year with native son Barack Obama leading the ticket -- will work in favor of the party's eventual nominee.

"With a heavily-leaning Democratic electorate and their native son up for re-election 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," said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair Patty Murray (Wash.).

Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, former Rep. Ed Case and former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann are mentioned as possible Akaka successors for Democrats. Another intriguing name for Democrats is Tammy Duckworth, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2006 from Illinois but went to high school in Hawaii.

By Chris Cillizza  | March 2, 2011; 7:06 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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