U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a physician and opponent of the 2010 healthcare reform law
, announced he will leave the Senate at the end of this Congress.
Coburn's departure two years before his term expires will require a special election to fill his vacated seat in the upper chamber. The Oklahoma
Republican—who specialized in family medicine, obstetrics and the treatment of allergies—has battled cancer, but said that is not the reason why is leaving the Senate.
“Carolyn and I have been touched by the encouragement we've received from people across the state regarding my latest battle against cancer,” Coburn, who turns 66 in March, said in a statement. “But this decision isn't about my health, my prognosis, or even my hopes and desires,” he continued. “My commitment to the people of Oklahoma has always been that I would serve no more than two terms.”
Coburn said in the statement that he sees public service as a “calling rather than a career.” That was the same approach he took when he served in the House of Representatives, where he vowed to serve no more than three terms. He represented Oklahoma's second congressional district between 1995 and 2001 and then re-entered Congress in 2005 after he was elected to the Senate in 2004.
He did not indicate what he might do next, saying only that he can best serve his children and grandchildren “by shifting my focus elsewhere.”
Coburn voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010. Last summer, he said the only way to stop the law would be to reverse it, but acknowledged that the upper chamber didn't have the votes to do that.
A graduate of the University of Oklahoma Medical School, Coburn completed his internship in general surgery at St. Anthony's Hospital in Oklahoma City and later completed his residency in family practice at the University of Arkansas in Forth Smith.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) said the special election to fill Coburn's seat will be held on the same dates as Oklahoma's regularly scheduled elections. A primary election will take place on June 24; a potential run-off is slated for Aug. 26, and the general election is Nov. 4. Follow Jessica Zigmond on Twitter: @MHjzigmond