News Column

Sen. Webb Won't Seek Re-election

February 10, 2011

Wes Hester

Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., announced today he will not seek re-election after serving a single term.

"After much thought and consideration I have decided to return to the private sector, where I have spent most of my professional life, and will not seek re-election in 2012," he said in a statement released this morning.

The announcement came on Webb's 65th birthday.

Webb beat out Republican incumbent George Allen in 2006. Allen recently announced his quest to reclaim the seat in 2012. Also vying for the nomination is tea party activist Jamie Radtke.

"It has been a great and continuing privilege to serve in the United States Senate," Webb said, pointing to his work on the post- 9/11 GI Bill, criminal justice reform and improving relations with Asian nations.

"Notwithstanding this decision, I have every intention of remaining involved in the issues that affect the well-being and the future of our country," Webb added.

Webb is a Vietnam veteran, a published author and former Secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan.

Fellow Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., called Webb "a great working partner" and a strong advocate on Virginia issues.

"Jim Webb is an American original. He is a patriot, an intellectual, and a man who has devoted his life to serving our country," said Warner. "Few people in Washington command as much respect or have Jim's credibility on national security and military issues, and the men and women in uniform and our veterans could not have a stronger advocate in Washington."

Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott, D-3rd, called Webb "a close friend and colleague."

"I had the privilege of working with him on his greatest legislative achievement, the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, as well as efforts to bring more attention to the issue of over incarceration in our nation," Scott said. "While I respect his decision to retire, Virginia is losing a very skilled and disciplined legislator in the United States Senate."

Allen, in a statement, said he respected "Senator Webb's service to our country and the very personal decision that he and his family have made.

"I did not enter into this race to run against any one person, but to fight for the families of Virginia to improve their opportunities in life. My campaign will continue to focus on achievable reforms that will help reinvigorate our economy, end reckless, runaway spending, and unleash our plentiful energy resources," Allen said.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee said Webb's decision "makes Virginia an even stronger pickup opportunity for Republicans in 2012" and taunted at the possibility of Democratic National Committee Chairman Timothy M. Kaine as a possible candidate.

"While there is no doubt Republicans will field a strong leader as our nominee, Democrats will have great difficulty finding an electable candidate for this open seat as Virginians continue to reject their agenda of higher taxes and reckless spending," spokesman Brian Walsh said. "We can only hope that Democrats succeed in recruiting President Obama's number one cheerleader in Washington -- Tim Kaine."

But Kaine told the Richmond Times-Dispatch last month he was unlikely to make a run.

"I know myself pretty well," he said. "You get spoiled being an executive -- being a legislator is not the best way for me to serve others right now, and I find it hard to me to contemplate a future where I say that is the best way for me to serve."

Allen and Radtke have battered Webb for months on his votes, especially his support of health care reform.

While he did vote in favor of the bill, Webb has since been critical of the way it was handled, saying the current administration "did a really terrible job handling health care reform" pointing to the decision to rely on Congress to draft a plan.

Webb recently brushed off Allen's run, commenting the day after the announcement that "Today's no different than yesterday for me."

Webb proved to be an iconoclastic figure in office, not seeming to care that he was an impolitic politician.

In July, he wrote in the Wall Street Journal arguing for the elimination of government-directed diversity programs, saying they have expanded "so far beyond their original purpose that they now favor anyone who does not happen to be white."

Webb said programs created to counteract the historic oppression of blacks have grown to include other ethnicities who did not suffer the same discrimination to the point of damaging "racial harmony" and marginalizing "many white workers."

In March 2009, Webb called for an 18-month, bipartisan examination of law enforcement, sentencing and incarceration. He depicted the spiraling cost of criminal justice as unsustainable.

"We're putting more and more people in jail each year, and yet... Americans will tell you that they feel less safe in their communities than they did a year ago," Webb said.

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