MUSKOGEE, Okla. — Rep. Dan Boren, Oklahoma's only Democratic member of Congress and the son of one of its most powerful men, said Tuesday that he won't seek a fifth term in office next year because he's tired of campaigning and wants to spend more time with his family.
Boren, a 37-year-old conservative Democrat who comfortably won re-election last year, said at a news conference in his hometown of Muskogee that he's proud of his Congressional record and that he was picked three times to represent Oklahoma's 2nd District, which has long voted Republican in presidential elections.
"Most importantly I consider myself to be independent and bipartisan. I've always tried to vote my district," he said.
Boren began his political career in 2002 by winning a seat in the state House of Representatives, enjoying name recognition that few other candidates in the state could hope for. His father, David Boren, served as governor and senator before taking his current job as president of the University of Oklahoma.
After two years in the Legislature, Dan Boren set his sights on Congress and was elected to his current seat, which was left open when former Democratic Rep. Brad Carson ran for Senate.
Boren said Tuesday that he's not ruling out a future run for political office, and said he'd love to be governor one day, as his father was, but that he wouldn't run against Oklahoma's current governor, Republican Mary Fallin. He also said he won't endorse anyone vying for his seat in the next election.
Voters in Boren's eastern Oklahoma district, which extends from the foothills of the Ozark Mountains to the Red River in the south, have consistently backed him, and he would have been favored had he sought re-election. His decision not to run hurts the Democrats' chances of retaking control of the House in 2012 and it depletes of the ranks of the so-called Blue Dogs – the centrist Democrats from conservative districts.
Boren's predecessor, Carson, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he plans to run again for his old seat next year.
"I think I'm going to," Carson said. "It's still roughly the same district. The country has changed a bit. There's more polarization now."
Carson said he plans to begin organizing his election campaign and will make a formal announcement later. He also said a slate of strong Democratic candidates would give the party a chance to retain the eastern Oklahoma seat.
"We could possibly see a Democratic primary for that race," Collins said. "I'm certainly not going to write that race off."
Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman Wallace Collins said he was surprised to learn Boren would not seek re-election, but understood the family considerations that led to the decision.
"He's got two young children and wants to be with his family more," Collins said. "It was no doubt a tough decision."
Collins said several Democrats may run for the seat, including Carson, who won the seat in 2000 and 2002 but lost his 2004 Senate bid to Republican Tom Coburn.
Republican Party Chairman Matt Pinnell said he, too, was surprised to learn of Boren's pending departure. Pinnell said Boren's absence from the campaign will give the GOP an opportunity to take control of the only Oklahoma congressional seat not held by a Republican.
"We are already aggressively talking to candidates," Pinnell said. "It is obviously a great opportunity for eastern Oklahoma to elect a Republican."
Associated Press writers Tim Talley in Oklahoma City and Henry C. Jackson in Washington contributed to this report.