Former Rep. Charles Djou (R-Hawaii) isn't ruling out a bid for the seat of retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) in 2012, saying he hopes to make a return to public service "at some point in the future."  

Akaka announced Wednesday that he won't seek reelection next year, becoming the fifth member of the Senate Democratic Caucus to announce his retirement this year and creating yet another open seat Senate contest in 2012.

While the state is heavily Democratic and the only in the nation where President Obama currently enjoys an approval rating greater than 60 percent, an open seat race offers Republicans a better shot at making the contest competitive. 

Former Gov. Linda Lingle (R) is the top choice for most Republicans next year, but Djou is in the Senate mix, as well. He told The Ballot Box late Wednesday that he's not ruling anything out. 

"As of now, I am not currently a candidate for any office," Djou said. "I do hope to get back into public service at some point, but it's still way too early to say whether that will be in 2012 and whether it will be the Senate race."  

Djou said Lingle, who happens to be his next-door neighbor, is "a very close friend," and indicated that her decision on whether or not wage a 2012 bid would have some bearing on his own. 

"I have a very good relationship with her and I look forward to working with her in the future and to seeing what she decides to do," he said.  

Djou won a special election to Congress in May of last year to fill the seat of former Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D), who resigned to run for governor. He lost his bid for a full term this past fall to Democrat Colleen Hanabusa.

The Republican said he expects a crowded and potentially nasty Democratic Senate primary, which he said could ease the path for the eventual Republican nominee. Potential Democratic candidates include the state's two congresswomen Mazie Hirono and Hanabusa. 

Djou didn't offer a timetable for his own decision on a Senate contest, but said the 2012 environment will play a role in the process. 

"The environment will be challenging, there's no doubt," Djou said. "President Obama continues to enjoy stratospheric approval ratings here. That is clearly going to be part of the consideration for Gov. Lingle and for myself."