WASHINGTON -- Carl Levin, the six-term Democratic senator from Michigan known for his steadfast backing of the U.S. auto industry, won't run for re-election in 2014, his office said.
Levin, 78, has served in the Senate since 1979. In a statement on Thursday, he said he decided to retire because he does not want to focus on campaigning for the next two years.
"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, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in the statement.
With his retirement at the end of the current congressional session, Detroit automakers will lose one of their chief allies on Capitol Hill on matters ranging from international trade to the environment.
Levin, the co-chair of the Senate Auto Caucus, was an ardent supporter of the 2009 U.S.-led rescue of General Motors and Chrysler. He said in the statement that one of his goals for his final two years in the Senate is to "ensure that the manufacturing renaissance that has led Michigan's economic comeback continues."
And while Levin joined Detroit automakers in resisting stricter fuel-economy rules for much of his career in Washington, he backed the deals struck between the industry and the Obama administration that set a 54.5 mpg standard for 2025.
He also sponsored legislation that provided incentives to automakers to start building vehicles, such as electric cars, that do not run on oil.
Levin also spearheaded a push to renegotiate a trade deal with South Korea after U.S. automakers complained about the terms negotiated by the George W. Bush administration. The reworked pact, signed into law by President Obama in 2011, will phase out U.S. tariffs on cars and trucks imported from South Korea over the course of a decade.