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Sen. Bob Graham won't run for re-election

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Sen. Bob Graham, 67, said Monday he will not seek re-election.

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(CNN) -- A month after dropping his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Bob Graham of Florida announced Monday that he will retire from politics rather than seek a fourth term in the Senate.

"I have had a full and joyful and I hope productive life, and I intend to have other chapters that will meet those same standards," Graham said at Lincoln High School in Tallahassee, with his wife and daughter at his side.

The departure of Graham, one of Florida's most popular politicians, is another blow to Democratic hopes of reclaiming control of the closely divided Senate next year.

Graham, who will turn 67 Sunday, had described his decision on whether to run for another term as a "rest-of-your-life" decision. He said he planned to write, teach and possibly create a center to train young political leaders in Florida.

"This has been a very difficult decision for me and my family," he said. "I have been very gratified to have served the people of Florida for so many years, but [decided] that this was the time to move on."

Graham was at Lincoln High for one of his trademark "work days," in which he spends a day tackling a different job. Monday was the 391st work day, which he started during his 1978 run for governor. He was repairing the roof and the track at the school

Graham and three other Senate Democrats from the South -- John Edwards of North Carolina, Zell Miller of Georgia and Ernest Hollings of South Carolina -- have all decided to leave next year, forcing the party to defend four open seats in a region that's increasingly Republican.

Graham, a former two-term governor who has been easily elected to the Senate three times, would have been the Democrats' best chance for keeping the Florida seat. Senate Democratic leaders had met with him several times in recent days, encouraging him to seek re-election.

The Senate currently has 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats and one independent, Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont, who caucuses with the Democrats.

Graham did not endorse a successor Monday, but he pledged to help whoever emerges as the Democratic nominee for his Senate seat.

Graham, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a strong critic of President Bush's Iraq policy, abandoned his presidential bid in October, saying he didn't have the money or organization to win due to a late start.

"The premature conclusion of our presidential campaign was a great disappointment," Graham said Monday. "However, it was not without its rewards. I am proud of the issues we raised, which are now becoming the central issues of debate in the presidential campaign."

Five Democrats have declared their intention to run for the Senate seat, although all of them said they wouldn't run if Graham sought re-election. Democrats in the race include three U.S. House members, Allen Boyd, Peter Deutsch and Alcee Hastings; Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas; and former state Education Commissioner Betty Castor.

Four Republicans are in the race: state House Speaker Johnnie Byrd; former U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum; state Sen. Dan Webster; and Larry Klayman, head of the legal activist group Judicial Watch.

--CNN Political Editor John Mercurio contributed to this report.


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