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Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) announced Monday that he would retire from the Senate in 2010 after serving two terms.
In a statement from his office, Voinovich emphasized that he wanted to spend his final two years in the Senate focusing on legislating instead of campaigning.
These next two years in office, for me, will be the most important years that I have served in my entire political career, Voinovich said in a statement. I must devote my full time, energy and focus to the job I was elected to do, the job in front of me, which seeking a third term with the money-raising and campaigning that it would require would not allow me to do.
The decision appeared to be a personal one for Voinovich, who said in the statement that he and his wife, Janet, arrived at the decision for him to retire after spending the holiday break with his extended family.
We have been blessed with good health, but were no spring chickens, Voinovich said. In 2010, I will be 74 years old and will have served 44 years in public office, having been elected to more public offices than any other person in Ohio history.
Voinovich becomes the fourth Republican Senator who has announced that he is retiring in 2010, following Sens. Mel Martinez (Fla.), Sam Brownback (Kan.) and Kit Bond (Mo.). The wave of GOP retirements sets the National Republican Senatorial Committee up for another difficult cycle, with Senate Democrats only one or two seats short of a filibuster-proof caucus.
Voinovich aides, who vehemently insisted he would run for re-election until last week, say his decision has nothing to do with his popularity in Ohio: Aides said his approval rating was more than 50 percent statewide. The senior Senator from Ohio was expected to report having $2.7 million in his campaign account this week.
A Washington, D.C., and Buckeye State Republican operative says the GOPs first choice to run for the seat is former Office of Management and Budget Director Rob Portman, who represented Ohios 2nd district for more than five terms before stepping down to be U.S. trade representative and then budget director in the Bush administration.
If Portman were to announce a bid, he would start with an advantage of $1.5 million in his bank account from his 2nd district Congressional races.
If Portman does not run, Republican officials will likely look to former Sen. Mike DeWine (Ohio), who lost his seat to now-Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) in 2006. At least one Ohio Republican named former Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R) as a possible candidate, although he is currently in the midst of an outsider bid for chairman of the Republican National Committee.