California’s Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer on Thursday announced she will not run for reelection in 2016, concluding a 33-year congressional career as a tribune of liberal causes.
Boxer’s half-expected retirement announcement gives her two more years to make a mark in a Senate now controlled by conservative Republicans, even as it sparks a California political scramble among those angling to replace her.
“I want to come home,” Boxer said in a video. “I want to come home to the state I love so much.”
Starting her congressional career in the House of Representatives in 1983, where she represented left-leaning Marin County, Boxer stepped up to the Senate in 1993.
On both sides of Capitol Hill, the 4’11” Brooklyn native made her mark with feisty rhetoric, a strong commitment to women’s and environmental causes and a steady climbing of the seniority ladder that eventually made her first female chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Boxer’s career also embodied broader changes in Congress itself. When she announced her initial Senate candidacy in 1990, for a seat coming open in 1992, there were only two women in the Senate. In the current Congress there are 20; 14 Democrats and six Republicans.
Now 74, but still counted as California’s junior senator behind her Democratic colleague, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Boxer had already prompted widespread speculation about her future plans. With only $148,777 in her campaign treasury as of last Sept. 30, Boxer was not building the usual foundation for a reelection bid.
In her last Senate race, a 2010 romp over Republican Carly Fiorina, Boxer spent more than $29 million.
A one-time stockbroker and Marin County supervisor, Boxer set out her political priorities with her first Senate campaign declaration in November 1990.
"I will be running based on issues of the environment, a world of peace, economic prosperity, individual freedom of choice and freedom of the arts," Boxer said at the time.
She has largely stuck to those principles, voting against the authorizations of war in the Middle East and earning 100 percent vote ratings in 2013 from NARAL Pro-Choice America and the League of Conservation Voters.
“The Senate is the place where I have always made my case,” Boxer said.