Another potentially competitive Senate race falls into Republicans’ laps.
U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka announced today that he will not run for re-election in 2012.
Akaka, 86, has served in the Senate since 1990. He previously served a little more than 13 years in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“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. It has been a great honor and privilege to serve the people of Hawaii. In 2006, the people of Hawaii gave me an opportunity to continue my service in the United States Senate and I fully intend to serve the last two years of my term in office.”
Hawaii is a pretty heavily Democratic state, and having native son Obama on the ticket would presumably help drive up Democratic turnout.
But former two-term governor Linda Lingle, who has expressed interest in running for this seat, would be a top-tier candidate.
The odds for Lingle against a standard-issue Democrat would be somewhere close to 50-50; the odds would have been much steeper against Akaka, as few if any Hawaiians incumbents lose.
UPDATE: Brian Walsh, NRSC communications director, sends along this message:
At the start of this election cycle, Senate Republicans expected to be on offense in a range of Republican-leaning states such as Montana, Missouri, and Nebraska. But the retirement of yet another longtime Democrat Senator further expands the map of takeover opportunities and further strengthens Republican hopes for a new Senate majority in 2012. 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.