Republican Sen. Kit Bond announced Thursday that he will not seek re-election in 2010, saying he does not "aspire to become Missouri's oldest senator."
Bond, 69, made the announcement at the state Capitol, shortly after Missouri lawmakers convened.
"Public service has been a blessing and a labor of love for me. Little in life could be more fulfilling, but I have decided that my Senate career will end after this, my fourth term," he said.
Bond was first elected to the Senate in 1986 - the only Republican that year to capture a seat previously held by a Democrat. Voters re-elected him three times. Before joining the Senate, Bond was Missouri governor and state auditor.
"In 1973, I became Missouri's youngest governor. I do not aspire to become Missouri's oldest senator," Bond said.
As recently as a few months ago, Bond had told crowds that he would be seeking re-election. His chief of staff had also moved home to Missouri from Washington, a move seen by Republicans and other observers as a strong sign Bond was laying the groundwork for another campaign.
After serving briefly as an assistant attorney general, Bond was elected state auditor in 1970. At age 33, he became Missouri's youngest governor when he was sworn into office on Jan. 8, 1973 - exactly 36 years before Thursday's retirement announcement.
Bond lost re-election in 1976 only to win a rematch against Democratic Gov. Joe Teasdale in 1980.
In the Senate, Bond became vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee in late 2006 and later played a key role in bringing both parties together to revise the 30-year-old Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a feat he considered one of his greatest accomplishments as a lawmaker.
Bond's retirement is the second political jolt to the Missouri Republican Party in as many years.
In January 2008, Republican Gov. Matt Blunt stunned supporters and foes alike by announcing he would not seek a second term. A contentious two-way Republican primary resulted, and Democrat Jay Nixon ultimately won the governorship in the November general election.