By Stephen Elliott

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander will not seek re-election in 2020, the three-term Republican announced Monday morning.

Alexander — a former Tennessee governor, U.S. Secretary of Education and presidential candidate — will be 80 years old on Election Day in two years.

“The people of Tennessee have been very generous, electing me to serve more combined years as Governor and Senator than anyone else from our state,” Alexander said in a statement. “I am deeply grateful, but now it is time for someone else to have that privilege. I have gotten up every day thinking that I could help make our state and country a little better, and gone to bed most nights thinking that I have. I will continue to serve with that same spirit during the remaining two years of my term.”

Alexander’s decision will create a second consecutive open Senate race in the state. U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn was elected last month to succeed fellow Republican Sen. Bob Corker.

“One of the highlights of my time in the Senate has been working with Lamar Alexander,” Corker said in a statement. “I often tell him he is the legislator of the decade because of the effective way he has worked across the aisle to pass legislation that directly affects the lives of so many throughout our state and around the country. As one of the finest statesmen our state has ever seen, Lamar will leave behind a remarkable legacy. I know he will press through the next two years with great vigor, and I look forward to all he will accomplish on behalf of Tennesseans as he completes his service in Washington.”

Alexander was a two-term governor, first elected in 1978. He was later president of the University of Tennessee and U.S. Secretary of Education under George H.W. Bush before twice running unsuccessfully for president. He was elected to the Senate in 2002 and re-elected in 2008 and 2014.

The Post reported last week that Republican doctor Manny Sethi was considering a run for the seat if Alexander decided to retire. Democratic state Sen. Sara Kyle of Memphis told the Post last month that she was exploring a run for U.S. Senate in 2020. Many other candidates are expected to weigh a bid for the newly open seat, including outgoing Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican who declined to run for Corker’s seat this year.

“It is almost impossible to measure the impact of Lamar Alexander’s commitment to Tennessee,” Haslam said in a release. “His time as governor paved the way for the economic position we enjoy today as a leading state for business, and his educational reforms were ahead of his time. As a senator, he has distinguished himself as a national leader, while always reminding everyone that our founders designed our government for most of the power to be delegated to the states. No one has served our state longer as a governor and senator, and few, if any, have served it better than Lamar.”