After more than 40 years representing parts of Nashville in the state’s Capitol, state Sen. Douglas Henry said the reason he won’t run for re-election next year is because it’s financially and physically costly.
Henry, the longest-tenured member of the Tennessee General Assembly, turns 87 years old this week and said he will retire from serving the 21st District at the end of his term in November 2014.
“[I will] be digging my own grave if I keep this up. And beside that, if I told you all how much money it cost to get elected last time, you’d never believe me. Obscene, I think’s the word for it. Obscene,” he told reporters during a press conference on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
In Henry’s last re-election, he narrowly beat out Nashville attorney Jeff Yarbro by 17 votes in a hard-run Democratic primary. Henry’s campaign spent more than $335,000 leading up to that election, according to 2010 campaign finance records.
Since then, his district has changed to remove upper-income swaths of Davidson County. It instead stretches from Sylvan Park to the southeast corner of the county then back north to East Nashville.
Henry suggested to reporters he could win re-election again in the newly drawn district because it now includes middle-income voters who would like his past voting record. “But it cost so much,” he said. “I don’t want to die from it.”
Since Henry announced last week he would not seek re-election, both Yarbro and Metro Councilman Jason Holleman have said they plan to run  in the Democratic primary to fill his seat. Both reside in Sylvan Park.
Henry would not rule out lending a political endorsement to a potential successor but said he would wait to assess the field of candidates first.
Henry was first elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1954. He lost re-election, then was elected to the Senate in 1970 and has since served uninterrupted.