Republican U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl said Thursday he won't seek re-election when his term ends in 2012, creating another open seat as Republicans try to take back control of the Senate.
Kyl, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, said at a news conference that it was time to give someone else a chance at the seat he's held since 1994.
Kyl, 68, whose father was a congressman from Iowa, served 10 years in the U.S. House before being elected to the Senate. He was re-elected twice, most recently in 2006 when he beat developer Jim Pederson, a former state Democratic Party chairman.
Kyl is the fifth senator to announce plans to retire, with Jim Webb, D-Va., Kent Conrad, D-N.D., Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., all leaving after 2012.
The GOP should be favored to hold on to the seat in heavily Republican Arizona, where the party was hugely successful in the midterm elections. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords had been mentioned as a strong Democratic candidate for the seat before she was shot in the head at a political event one month ago.
Kyl has a reputation as a hardworking conservative who toiled on home-state and national issues, particularly ones involving national defense and judiciary topics, while being overshadowed for years by the state's senior senator, fellow Republican John McCain.
Kyl most recently made headlines for his opposition to a U.S.-Russia nuclear treaty that was a top foreign policy priority of President Barack Obama.
He entered the Senate by winning a seat held by Democrat Dennnis DeConcini, who did not run for a fourth term. He defeated Democrat Sam Coppersmith, a one-term U.S. representative, by a nearly 3-2 margin.
In 2000, Kyl cruised to re-election when Democrats didn't even both putting up a candidate. Kyl crushed two minor party candidates and an independent. Six years later, Kyl had a roughly 150,000-vote edge over Pederson, out of roughly 1.5 million votes cast.
Pederson, a shopping center developer, sunk $10 million of his own money into the race.
Republicans mentioned as possible candidates for the seat include U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake, former U.S. Rep. John Shadegg and former state Treasurer Dean Martin. Another Democrat whose names figure in speculation include former Gov. Janet Napolitano, currently the U.S. Homeland Security secretary.
Associated Press Writer Paul Davenport contributed to this report.
© 2011 The Associated Press.