California senator Barbara Boxer won't be running for reelection in 2016, the 71-year-old Democrat announced today in a video interview with her eldest grandson, who she asked to stand in for journalists who have been grilling her about her future.
But Boxer left the door open for impacting public policies in other ways.
“I am never going to retire — the work is too important,” Boxer told Zachary Rodham, her 19-year-old grandson, who is a nephew of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Although she confirmed she will not seek a fifth term in the U.S. Senate, Boxer did seem to allude to her grandson's aunt, widely presumed to be a likely candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.
"I want to help our Democratic candidate for president make history," Boxer said, without going into greater detail on how she plans to do so.
Boxer has long been a steadfastly pro-LGBT voice in the Senate, as she was one of the few in that chamber to vote against the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 as well as against a subsequent effort to amend the U.S. Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage. She was a cosponsor of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and a repeated cosponsor of the long-languishing Employment Non-Discrimination Act. She was a vocal opponent of the military's ban on openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual soldiers, and supported the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."
Boxer formally endorsed marriage equality in 2010, though she had made her views on the subject clear in her outspoken opposition to California's Proposition 8, which repealed the freedom to marry in that state until it was ultimately struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. In 2011 she was among a group of Democratic senators who sent a letter to President Obama asking him to "evolve" on the issue and support marriage equality — which he did in May 2012.
Boxer concluded her announcement in verse:
"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 a job I love,
Thanks to California and the Lord above.
So although I won't be working in 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 — 'cause that's the meaning of my life."
While Boxer's announcement means that Californians will need to elect a new U.S. senator, The New York Times notes that the reliably liberal nature of California voters makes it highly unlikely that a Republican could secure the votes to replace Boxer in 2016.
"Senator Boxer has been a trailblazing champion of equality for LGBT people since her earliest days in public office," said Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin in a statement Thursday. "She was a leader against DOMA and 'Don't Ask, Don’t Tell' when many of her colleagues either championed or quietly voted for the discriminatory legislation. LGBT Americans need more principled leaders like Barbara Boxer fighting for full equality. We congratulate and thank her for her exceptional years of service and look forward to continuing to work with her throughout the remainder of her term."
Watch Boxer's "interview" with her grandson below.