WASHINGTON (CNN) — Sen. Barbara Boxer announced Thursday that she will not run for reelection in 2016, setting up a big money political battle for her seat in the nation’s most populous state.
Boxer, the 74-year-old Democratic junior Senator from California, said that she is not retiring altogether and will continue working on “the issues that I love” through her political action committee, PAC for a Change. Boxer was first elected to the Senate in 1992.
“I am never going to retire,” Boxer said. “The work is too important.”
Boxer’s announcement leaves open a contest in a blue state filled with rising Democratic stars — including California attorney general Kamala Harris and Lt.
Gov. Gavin Newsom — as well as plenty of hopefuls on the Republican side.
The progressive Senator explained her decision in a mock interview with her oldest grandson in a video posted to YouTube.
Boxer added that she plans to help Democrats’ 2016 candidate for president “make history.” Boxer has said repeatedly that former Secretary of State Hillary Cllinton should run for president and has fundraised for the Ready For Hillary PAC.
She also said she is committed to ensuring her Senate seat stays in the hands of progressive Democrats and said she is anxious to return to California.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California became clearly emotional during a press conference on Thursday when a reporter asked her about Boxer’s announcement. Pelosi was caught off guard by the question and hadn’t yet found out.
“It’s funny — she called me, she said she wanted to talk to me personally. I thought she wanted to me to have dinner tonight,” Pelosi said. “Her leaving will be a great loss to the Congress of the United States, people of California, and to our country.”
Pelosi called Boxer, who is just under 5 feet tall “small in size, but a giant in terms of her contribution.”
Boxer emphasized that her age was not a factor in her decision, nor was the hyper-partisan environment that has dominated Washington in recent years.
“When you stand up there and you fight to make sure there’s a strong middle class and you protect a woman’s right to choose and you fight for jobs and a clean environment…all those things are a fight worth making,” Boxer said in the video.
She added that her age was “definitely not” a factor.
“Some people are old at 40, some people are young at 80. I feel as young as I did when I got elected. I was in my 50s,” Boxer said.
California’s senior Sen. Dianne Feinstein, also a Democrat, is the oldest current serving member of the Senate. She has not announced her decision on running for reelection in 2018.
Boxer, who apparently has a fondness for rhymes, closed the “interview” with a few rhymes.
“The Senate is the place where I’ve always made my case. For families, for the planet and the human race. More than 20 years in a job I love, thanks to California and the Lord above. So although I wont be working from my senate space and I wont’ be running in that next tough race. As long as there are issues and challenges and strife, I will never retire because that’s the meaning of my life.”