A longtime friend to Hollywood, California Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer announced that she will not seek reelection in 2016.
In a video interview with her grandson Zach, Boxer announced her plans:
“I am never going to retire — the work is too important — but I will not be running for the Senate in 2016,” she said. “I’m going to continue working on the issues that I love … but you know what, I want to come home, I want to come home to the state that I love so much, California.”
Boxer, 74, is currently serving her fourth term as a California Senator — and is the ranking Democrat and former chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and also a ranking member of the Senate Committee on Ethics as well as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. She is also a member of the Democratic Senate leadership having service as chief deputy whip since 2005.
Boxer won her first political campaign in 1976, and entered the nation’s Capitol in 1982 as a Congresswoman, next being elected as a Senator in 1992.
She became a lightning rod on Capitol Hill, known for her strong support for women’s right to choose; environmental protection; income equality; gun control; Social Security and Medicare; and stem cell research. Boxer also said one of her proudest votes was against authorization to go to war in Iraq in 2002.
Fellow Democrat and Californian Nancy Pelosi, House minority leader, was visibly surprised when informed of the news by a journalist, but quickly recovered with praise for Boxer, saying “she is one of the most unselfish politicians I have ever known … Her leaving will be a great loss to the Congress of the United States, people of California and to our country.” Pelosi went on say, “She’s really a great leader for our country — small in size, but a giant in terms of her contribution to our country.” Watch Pelosi’s full response on video here.
She also had her fair share of made-for-cable-news moments on the Senate floor. In 2009, she scolded Brigadier General Michael Walsh for calling her “ma’am”: “Do me a favor, can you say ‘Senator’ instead of ‘ma’am’? It’s just a thing; I worked so hard to get that title, so I’d appreciate it.”
A beloved figure among liberal media personalities, Boxer has frequently appeared on MSNBC, HBO’s “Real Time” with Bill Maher and other progressive media outlets. In 2007, she appeared on the popular HBO improv show “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
Political analysts believe she would have won an easy reelection in 2016 if she opted to run.
Her retirement is likely to kick off a fight among House Democrats for the Democratic nomination, and it could also boost interest among Republicans for the position, despite California’s normal Democratic tilt, and raise interest in the position among celebrities.
As a member of the leadership, Boxer has frequently spoken up: In an op-ed in the Huffington Post last May, she accused Republicans of engaging in “a witch hunt” on Benghazi.
“You don’t need a degree in political science to know that the House Republicans’ latest ‘investigation’ of Benghazi is a political witch hunt,” she wrote.
In an April 2012 Politico op-ed, she accused Republicans of engaging in a “war on women”: “The facts are the facts. The Republicans have launched a war on women. Despite all the denials, women get it — and so do the men who care about them.”
While Boxer has taken strong positions on media issues (for example supporting net neutrality), and has sponsored legislation providing federal funding for after-school programs and repeatedly worked on environmental issues, she has been most prominent in recent years in pursuing women’s issues and in infrastructure rebuilding efforts. Boxer headed the first Foreign Relations subcommittee to focus on global women’s issues.
She also has been prominent in the current fight to find a way to continue to provide additional money to maintain U.S. roadways in light of decreasing revenues from the federal gas tax.
In concluding her retirement video, Boxer issued a rhyme to thank California.
“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 the job I love, thanks to California and the Lord above. So although I won’t be working for my Senate space, and I won’t 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.”
Vice President Joe Biden issued a statement on the senator’s retirement:
Barbara Boxer has been my soul mate in the Senate for a long time. She and Stew have been close friends of Jill and mine for many years. I have to be honest and say I’m very sorry she is leaving.
The Senate is losing a passionate voice, and a great leader in the environmental movement. She had the vision to promote a green economy, and she was one of the first to press for a cap on carbon emissions.
It was a particular honor to work with her on the Violence Against Women Act. You always knew in the Senate if you had Barbara on your side, you didn’t need much more.
I am sorry to see her go, but there are still two years left. And two years of Barbara Boxer is like having four to six years of any other Senator. She’s been a great Senator, and an even better friend.
See the video here.