Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe will step down before the next Congress convenes in January 2023.
Inhofe is the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. He was re-elected to serve a fifth six-year term in the Senate in November of 2020.
“I didn’t make a solid decision until two or three weeks ago,” Inhofe told The Oklahoman in his official confirmation on Feb. 25. “There has to be one day where you say, ‘All right, this is going to be it.’”
The senator, 87, said he had wanted to continue private discussions about his retirement but was unable to after his plans were leaked in Washington D.C.
He added that he and his wife, Kay, “have decided that we need to have time together.”
Inhofe has served as Oklahoma’s Senator since 1994.
Under state law, the governor must call a special election to fill a position vacated by a retiring lawmaker before March 1. The election will be held simultaneously with the nation’s midterm elections.
He went viral in 2010 after a video of him throwing a snowball across the Senate Chamber was posted online.
“It’s very, very cold out… Very unseasonal, so here Mr. Chairman, catch this,” he said, during a debate on climate change. At the tune, Inhofe was the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
The senator said he is “absolutely” at peace with the decision to retire and has endorsed his chief of staff Luke Holland to take his place.
Republicans U.S. Representative Kevin Hern and Markwayne Mullin are both considered to be possible contenders for the senate seat.
Republican Governor Kevin Sitt, who is serving his second four-year term, dismissed rumors that he may run for the federal position.
“My focus continues to be on delivering a top ten state by working with my friends in the Legislature to advance transformational conservative reforms that protect freedoms and benefit all 4 million Oklahomans,” the governor said in a statement on Feb. 25.
“This is going to be the most substantial shakeup in Oklahoma politics since at least 1994,” Pat McFerron, a Republican pollster and consultant in Oklahoma City, told AP News.
“There’s been nobody who’s done more to protect and promote Oklahoma’s infrastructure, particularly military infrastructure, than Jim Inhofe,” McFerron said. “He’s been a vital part of Oklahoma’s federal delegation for my entire adult life and a seminal figure in Oklahoma politics.”
Inhofe, an oil industry advocate and proponent of military spending, has said he intends to work on one more major defense bill before leaving office.