State Sen. Lowe Finney, who chairs the Democratic caucus in the Tennessee Senate, announced Wednesday that he won't seek a third term.
The Jackson attorney ruled out a run for governor next year, but wouldn't say whether he will make a bid for Jackson mayor.
"My focus again is on my district and what folks in West Tennessee need me to work on for the next several months," Finney told reporters in a phone interview. "And that's what I'm going to be doing."
Finney in 2006 defeated incumbent Sen. Don McLeary, who had earlier switched parties to become a Republican, by about 500 votes. Finney's win represented the only legislative seat that changed party hands that year, and Democrats have experienced heavy losses in every legislative election since then.
In a 2010 rematch, Finney beat McLeary by about 1,200 votes.
Six of the Democrats' seven seats in the 33-member Senate are up for election next year. Finney's will be the second open seat among them following the announcement in May that Sen. Douglas Henry of Nashville won't seek re-election.
Finney, who as caucus chairman is the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, argued that the future isn't bleak for Democrats.
"It's no secret it's been tough for Democrats for the last few cycles, both in the House and Senate," he said. "What we've got to do now is focus on finding good candidates who can take that time to really join the fight and put their name on the ballot and run because I'm confident there are people who can win if they'll run."
As part of the 2010 redistricting process, Senate District 27 kept Madison County, but lost Gibson and Carroll counties. But it added Crockett, Dyer, Lake and Lauderdale counties. Finney said the new district map didn't play into his decision to retire.
"Absolutely not," he said. "I was pleased with the welcome reception I received in all the counties. I hate that I'm not going to be able to run a race with them."
State Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney suggested in a release that Finney's announcement is related to the declared GOP candidacy of Jackson businessman Ed Jackson.
"He saw we have strong GOP candidates this cycle, like Ed Jackson, and decided taking on a Republican was a losing cause," Devaney said.