Coburn has been fighting prostate cancer, and he had indicated previously, in private, that his health might interfere with him being able to complete his term. However, in his announcement today, he didn't refer as much to his health as his initial commitment of retiring after two terms.
“Carolyn and I have been touched by the encouragement we’ve received from people across the state regarding my latest battle against cancer. But this decision isn’t about my health, my prognosis or even my hopes and desires. My commitment to the people of Oklahoma has always been that I would serve no more than two terms. Our founders saw public service and politics as a calling rather than a career. That’s how I saw it when I first ran for office in 1994, and that’s how I still see it today. I believe it’s important to live under the laws I helped write, and even those I fought hard to block."
Coburn was first elected in 2004, and since his election has been one of the Senate's most diligent fiscal conservatives. His retirement will set off a big rush by Oklahoma Republicans to take his place - but given the nature of the state, there is a good chance that Coburn's eventual replacement will be fairly conservative as well. Whether he or she will be as effective as Coburn has been in highlighting - and blocking- wasteful spending is more of a question.
Prior to his election in the Senate, Coburn served three terms in the house of Representatives.
With the announcement, it also means that both Oklahoma Senate seate will be on the 2014 ballot, as Oklahoma's other senator, Jim Inhofe, is running for re-election.