- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 7, 2011

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Rep. Dan Boren, the lone Democrat in Oklahoma’s congressional delegation and the scion of one of the state’s most powerful men, will not seek re-election to a fourth term next year, three Democrats close to the congressman said Tuesday.

Mr. Boren, a conservative Democrat who comfortably won re-election last year despite big gains by Republicans nationwide, scheduled a news conference for later Tuesday in Muskogee, Okla., to discuss his future plans. The Democrats who told the Associated Press of his plans did so on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss them before the news conference.

Cole Perryman, a spokesman for Mr. Boren, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Voters in Mr. Boren’s eastern Oklahoma district, which stretches from the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in northeastern Oklahoma to the Red River in the south, consistently have supported the conservative Democrat. His father, David Boren, is president of the University of Oklahoma and previously served as the state’s governor and as a U.S. senator.

The younger Mr. Boren’s decision hurts his party’s chances of taking back control of the House of Representatives in 2012, and it depletes of the ranks of the House’s so-called “Blue Dogs,” who are centrist Democrats who hail from more conservative congressional districts.

At just 37 years old, Mr. Boren is retiring young for a member of Congress. He first was elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 2002, and two years later he ran for Congress when then-Rep. Brad Carson, a Democrat, vacated the 2nd District seat to run for the U.S. Senate.

Mr. Carson told the Associated Press that he will seek Mr. Boren’s seat in 2012.

“I think I’m going to,” Mr. Carson said. “It’s still roughly the same district. The country has changed a bit. There’s more polarization now.”

Mr. 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,” Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman Wallace Collins said. “I’m certainly not going to write that race off.”

Mr. Collins said he was surprised to learn Mr. Boren would not seek re-election, but he understood the family considerations that led to the decision.

“He’s got two young children and wants to be with his family more,” Mr. Collins said. “It was, no doubt, a tough decision.”

Mr. Collins said several Democrats may run for the seat, including Mr. Carson, who was elected to Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District seat in 2000 and won re-election in 2002. He ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate against Dr. Tom Coburn in 2004.

State Republican Party Chairman Matt Pinnell said he, too, was surprised to learn of Mr. Boren’s pending departure. Mr. Pinnell said Mr. 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,” Mr. Pinnell said. “It is obviously a great opportunity for eastern Oklahoma to elect a Republican.”

Henry C. Jackson reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Tim Talley in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.

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