WASHINGTON — Senator Debbie Stabenow, the senior Democratic senator from Michigan and a member of the party leadership, announced on Thursday that she would not seek a fifth term next year.
The statement by Ms. Stabenow, 72, made her the first Democrat to say she would not be on the ballot in 2024 and created an opening in the battleground state, giving her party another seat to defend when Democrats were already bracing for challenges to incumbents in Republican-leaning states such as Ohio, Montana and West Virginia. But Democrats had a strong showing in Michigan in November and quickly expressed confidence in holding the seat.
Ms. Stabenow, the chairman of the Agriculture Committee who was first elected in 2000, said she hoped to continue to serve the state outside of elected office.
“Inspired by a new generation of leaders, I have decided to pass the torch in the U.S. Senate,” Ms. Stabenow, the first female senator from Michigan, said in a statement.
“Under the cloud of unprecedented threats to our democracy and our basic freedoms, a record-breaking number of people voted last year in Michigan,” she said. “Young people showed up like never before. This was a very hopeful sign for our future.”
Republicans promised to mount a strong campaign for the seat.
“We are going to aggressively target this seat in 2024,” Mike Berg, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a statement. “This could be the first of many Democrats who decide to retire rather than lose.”
Democrats have not yet picked the head of their own Senate campaign operation. It was led the last two years by Senator Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan, who has said he is not interested in doing the job again after overseeing a one-seat expansion of the majority.
Ms. Stabenow was first elected to local office in 1974 at age 24. She served in the state legislature and the U.S. House before winning her Senate seat in 2000 by defeating the Republican incumbent Spencer Abraham. In the Senate, she is known as an effective and hardworking legislator who for the next two years will be overseeing the effort to renew major farm legislation.
“No one embodies the true Michigan spirit more than Debbie Stabenow,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat and majority leader. “From the state legislature to the House of Representatives, and for the last two decades in the United States Senate, Debbie has made a difference for Michiganders every step along the way.”