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Democratic Sen. Tom Carper says he won't seek re-election in 2024

Carper's retirement comes as Democrats face a difficult map next year to hold onto their narrow majority in the Senate.
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Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., announced Monday that he will not seek re-election next year after more than 20 years in the Senate.

During a news conference announcing his retirement, Carper said he decided against running for re-election after "a good deal of prayer and introspection, and more than a few heart-to-heart conversations" with his wife, Martha.

"We decided ... I should run through the tape over the next 20 months and finish the important work that my staff and I have begun on a wide range of fronts," Carper said.

Asked whether he’s thought about who he’d like to see replace him, Carper said he supports Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., to take his place.

“I’ve known Lisa since she was an intern in our congressional office,” he said, adding that she worked for his congressional office after finishing graduate school and later worked for Carper in the governor’s office.

"We love Lisa and I spoke with her this morning. I said, ‘You’ve been patiently waiting for me to get out of the way, and I’m going to get out of the way. And I hope you will run, and I hope you’ll let me support you in that mission. And she said, ‘Yes, I will let you support me.’"

Blunt Rochester, who became the first woman and first Black person to represent Delaware in Congress after she was elected in 2016, has not announced whether she will launch a Senate campaign.

On Monday, her office declined to comment to NBC News about Carper's comments and only pointed to her statement praising his career.

"No one put more miles in than Tom Carper," Blunt Rochester said. "No one worked harder for Delaware than Tom Carper. And I’m thrilled that he’ll now get to spend more time with Martha and his wonderful sons. After all, I know that the titles of husband and father have always meant more to him than Senator."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., thanked Carper for being a “conscientious, hardworking, honorable, and effective” senator in a statement.

“He has had a long and distinguished career representing the ‘First State’ as a Congressman, Governor, and Senator and deserves a well-earned retirement,” Schumer said. “I know everyone in the Senate will certainly miss Tom, especially myself.”

Schumer also called Rochester shortly after Carper’s announcement to say “he believes she could be a really good senator” and that he “looks forward to sitting down with her soon,” a spokesperson for Schumer said.

Carper, 76, has served in the Senate since 2001. He previously served as the governor of Delaware, congressman and the state's treasurer.

During his time in the Senate, Carper served as the chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and as a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee. He also helped craft key provisions in the Affordable Care Act, as well as the bipartisan infrastructure law that President Joe Biden signed in 2021.

The longtime Delaware senator this month was named to the National Advisory Board for Biden’s re-election campaign, a group of top surrogates. Carper endorsed Biden’s re-election campaign last month.

Prior to his career in politics, Carper served three tours of duty in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War as a naval flight officer for five years, and served in the Naval Reserve as a P-3 aircraft mission commander until retiring with the rank of captain in 1991 after 23 years of military service.

Carper’s announcement comes after Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., announced this month that he won’t seek re-election in 2024, setting off a potentially crowded primary in another heavily Democratic state during the presidential cycle.

Delaware hasn't had a Republican hold statewide office since 2018, when long-time GOP auditor Tom Wagner declined to seek re-election. Former Rep. Mike Castle was the last Republican to represent the state in Congress and left office after losing a bid for the Senate in 2010.

Democrats, who hold a slim majority in the Senate, face a competitive map to maintain their control of the chamber in the 2024 elections. Democrats need to defend 20 seats, not including those of three independents, two of whom caucus with the party. In comparison, only 10 Republicans are up for re-election. (Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., has not announced if she'll run for re-election.)

In addition to Carper and Cardin, Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan have announced their plans to not to seek re-election next year.