In this Dec. 18, 2010 file photo, Sen. Joseph Lieberman,...

In this Dec. 18, 2010 file photo, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., speaks during a news conference in Washington about the passage of the Don't Ask Don't Tell bill. Credit: AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Joe Lieberman was so determined to hang onto his seat in 2006 after losing the Democratic primary in Connecticut that he ran as an independent. Now he’s leaving without a fight.

The 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee, who angered the party by backing Republican John McCain for president in 2008, will leave the Senate on his own terms. He’s decided to retire and not seek a fifth term in 2012, Democratic officials said Tuesday.

Lieberman plans to announce his decision midday Wednesday in Stamford, Conn.

The Democratic officials requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Lieberman will depart with a reputation for straddling the sharp partisan divide in Congress and with at least one legislative trophy after leading the recent Senate fight to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military.

While Lieberman’s hawkish views on the military and the Iraq war rankled some Democrats, his support for gay rights and abortion rights won him the praise of many liberals.

Word of Lieberman’s decision came just hours after North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad, a Democrat, announced he would retire. Lieberman is an independent who usually votes with Democrats. Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana said Tuesday he plans to seek a seventh term next year despite a challenge from tea party groups.

Lieberman’s seat could pose a pick-up opportunity for Democrats in a state where President Barack Obama has been popular. Democrats hold 51 seats in the Senate and, besides Lieberman, also can normally count on support from the chamber’s other independent, Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Lieberman, 68, nearly won the vice presidency on the Democratic ticket with running mate Al Gore in 2000 and mounted an unsuccessful presidential bid in 2004.

He was defeated the last time he ran for the Democratic Senate nomination in Connecticut, in 2006, but won a new term running as an independent in a three-way race.

Top Democrats such as Obama and Sen. Christopher Dodd who had supported Lieberman in the 2006 primary instead backed Democratic nominee Ned Lamont in the fall general election. Lieberman was disappointed that some old friends weren’t loyal to him.

In the years since, he aligned himself with Democrats in the Senate, who permitted him to chair a committee in return. Yet in 2008 he supported McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, who put the Connecticut lawmaker on his list of potential vice presidential running mates.

Lieberman’s decision to speak at the 2008 GOP presidential nominating convention angered Democrats, and the speech he gave contrasting Obama to McCain angered them more.

“In the Senate, during the 3-1/2 years that Sen. Obama has been a member, he has not reached across party lines to ... accomplish anything significant, nor has he been willing to take on powerful interest groups in the Democratic Party to get something done,” Lieberman said at the time.

Lieberman’s poll ratings in his home state had slipped in recent years, encouraging Democratic challengers and sparking speculation about the senator’s retirement. Lieberman’s colleague, Dodd, recently retired from the Senate.

Hours before Lieberman’s plans became public, former Connecticut Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz said she’ll run in 2012 for Lieberman’s seat.

Two Connecticut House Democrats, Chris Murphy and Joe Courtney, are also considering a run. Republican Linda McMahon is also seen as a potential challenger, despite losing her Senate bid last year against Democrat Richard Blumenthal.

There had been speculation about whether Lieberman would run in 2012 as a Democrat, Republican or independent.

After the 2008 election and at Obama’s urging, Senate Democrats decided not to punish Lieberman for supporting the GOP ticket. They voted to let him keep his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Obama was eager to strike a bipartisan tone for his presidency.

Two years ago, some state Democrats wanted to censure Lieberman for his actions. Ultimately, he was sent a stern letter. Since that time, he has had scant interaction with the party.

Lieberman told The Associated Press late last month that he was considering whether to seek another term in the Senate.

“It’s a difficult decision for me because I really have loved my service here in the Senate, and I feel privileged to be here,” he said. “I guess the question is — and I think you’ve always got to ask is — ‘Now, after 22 years, 24 years after this term is over, do I want to do it again? Or, do I want to try something else?’ That’s the question you’ve got to answer.”

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