WASHINGTON (AP) – Democratic Sen. Carl Levin said yesterday he will seek re-election in 2008, citing the need to help shape the course in Iraq and press the White House to support manufacturers.

The 72-year-old Michigan lawmaker was widely expected to seek a sixth term and will enter the race a heavy favorite. With Democrats winning control of the Senate, Levin will take the helm of the Armed Services panel, giving him a major role in Congress’ shaping of Iraq policy.

“There is a lot of work that needs to be done, and I’m in a position where I feel I can be useful and effective,” Levin said.

Levin said fellow Democrats urged him to seek another term. With his party controlling Congress next year, he said they would work to help “change the direction, both the security policy and the economic policy of this country.”

Levin said he decided to seek re-election last week after consulting with family members. He did not fully consider his options until after the election and “when the time came, it was very clear.”

The Detroit legislator first was elected to the Senate in 1978. In 2002, he defeated Republican state lawmaker Andrew “Rocky” Raczkowski with 61 percent of the vote.

With U.S. soldiers in conflict, Levin has called for troop withdrawals from Iraq beginning within four to six months. He has criticized the Bush administration for making the war open-ended, saying the White House has provided Iraqis with a blank check with the presence of U.S. troops.

To help the state’s manufacturing and automotive sector, Levin said he would push the Bush administration to take stronger actions against China and Japan on currency manipulation and reduce barriers preventing U.S. products from being sold in Asian markets. Levin said the Congress also would seek several actions on health care, ranging from negotiating drug prices to helping with high-cost, catastrophic cases that often increase health care costs.

“I see Congress taking a far more independent position from the White House and being less of a rubber stamp,” Levin said.

Only a month after the midterm elections, it’s unclear if Levin will face a major Republican opponent. Several Republicans were eyeing the seat if Levin had announced his retirement, but his decision will complicate efforts by GOP leaders to recruit a top candidate.

Levin has earned at least 58 percent of the vote in his past three re-election campaigns and would be considered a strong favorite.

Republicans who have been mentioned as potential Senate candidates include Reps. Candice Miller of Macomb County’s Harrison Township and Mike Rogers of Brighton, Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, and Attorney General Mike Cox.

Miller was courted by the White House to challenge Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow this year but declined. She said Friday in an interview she was “interested in doing the best job that I can for the people in my district. I really don’t know what the future might hold for me.”

Rogers said Monday that he “just got hired for two years” and “that’s what I’m paying attention to.”

State GOP chairman Saul Anuzis said he has had discussions on the Senate race with two potential candidates, but it was too early to speculate on the race. He declined to name the Republicans he had spoken to.

“(Levin) has a long record that he has to defend and it’s a record that’s very vulnerable in Michigan,” Anuzis said. ashes.

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