- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican, announced yesterday he won’t seek re-election next year, saying he was sticking to a promise to serve only two terms.

Mr. Hagel, who had expressed interest in seeking the Republican nomination for president for 2008, also said he doesn’t intend to run for any political office next year.

“I will leave the Senate with the same enthusiasm, sense of purpose and love of my country that I started with,” said Mr. Hagel at a press conference at the Omaha Press Club in Nebraska.

“I leave maybe a little wiser, surely a little more experienced and with a very respectable amount of humility.”

Mr. Hagel — the third Republican senator in the past two weeks to announce a resignation — said Republican leadership tried to persuade him to run again. He was re-elected in 2002 with 83 percent of the vote.

“I have always believed that democracies work best when there is a constant cycle of new energy and ideas, and fresh leadership,” said Mr. Hagel, 60, whose political views often were at odds with his party’s leaders.

He was an outspoken critic of President Bush’s Iraq war policy and called for the resignation of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales in May, who said last month he would step down in September.

Mr. Hagel, who hasn’t decided what to do next, would not comment on a potential replacement.

Possible candidates for Mr. Hagel’s seat include former Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey and former Republican Gov. Mike Johanns, the current U.S. agriculture secretary.

It’s not clear how Mr. Hagel’s decision will affect the Democrats’ bid to increase the narrow majority they won in 2006. Nebraska is a solidly Republican state, but it has a history of electing centrists, including its other senator, Democrat Ben Nelson.

Republicans, who have to defend nearly twice as many Senate seats as Democrats next year, now have to find as many as three new candidates.

In Virginia, Democrats are expected to mount a formidable fight to win the seat Republican Sen. John W. Warner is vacating after serving five terms.

Sen. Larry E. Craig of Idaho has said he intends to step down in the coming weeks after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct after a June arrest at a Minneapolis airport men’s room during an undercover police sex sting.

The Idaho seat is considered safe for Republicans.

Before entering politics, Mr. Hagel co-founded Vanguard Cellular Systems, which became the second-largest independent cell phone company in the nation.

He also worked as a radio newscaster and talk-show host, an investment banking firm executive and deputy administrator in the Veterans Administration. He served on the staff of Nebraska Republican Sen. John McCollister in the 1970s.

c This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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