Sen. Jim Webb, D-VA, announced today that he has decided not to seek re-election in the Senate, passing up what was expected to be a tough race to retain his seat in Congress.
“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,” Webb said in a statement.
If he had decided to run, the Virginia Democrat would likely have faced a rematch with former Sen. George Allen. In 2006, Webb emerged victorious against Allen in a tough race and the 2012 race had been viewed as a toss-up. On the GOP side, Allen is getting a challenge from Tea Party candidate Jamie Radtke.
Without Webb, Democrats will now have to scramble to find a strong alternative.
Possible candidates to replace Webb on the Democratic ticket include Tim Kaine, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Kaine has previously denied an interest in running for this seat. But President Obama could help encourage him to run since both men want to be able to carry Virginia in 2012.
If Kaine does not run, other possible candidates include former Rep. Tom Perriello and ex-DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe. Perriello’s liberal voting record could give him troubles in this purple state. McAuliffe, meanwhile, seems more interested in running for governor in 2013.
In his statement announcing his decision, Webb – who served as a combat Marine in Vietnam – touted his work on the GI Bill, criminal justice system reforms, and relationships in East and Southeast Asia.
He said he has “every intention of remaining involved in the issues that affect the well-being and the future of our country.”
Webb now joins a growing list of Democrats who have opted to step aside rather than seek re-election, including Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.
A whopping 23 Senate seats currently held by Democrats are up for re-election in 2012.
Update from Matthew Jaffe:
In a statement DNC boss Tim Kaine doesn’t say if he’s in or out of the Virginia 2012 Senate race, only declaring, “I am confident that our party will hold on to this Senate seat in 2012.”
Here is Kaine’s full statement:
“Even before he won election to the U.S. Senate in 2006, Jim Webb served his country with distinction in many ways including protecting our freedom on the battlefield. For the past four years, Senator Webb has been a strong and effective advocate for the people of Virginia. While I was Governor, I was pleased to have such a strong ally in the Senate and we worked together on a range of important issues.
“Senator Webb has dedicated much of his life to supporting and honoring America’s service members. He has also worked to promote justice and opportunity for Americans throughout the country. In the Senate, he led the effort to enact the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the most significant expansion of veteran’s benefits since the WWII era; he took a leading role in efforts to make the American criminal justice system more just; and he has served admirably on the Armed Services, Foreign Relations, and Joint Economic and Veterans Affairs committees. As a Virginian, I am proud of what Senator Webb has accomplished and the service he has provided to our state and his expertise will be sorely missed when his term of service comes to a close.
“I had hoped that Senator Webb, having worked tirelessly to help elect him in 2006, would run for reelection and continue his service in the Senate. However, over the past decade, we’ve made major progress in turning Virginia from a solidly Republican state to a highly competitive one, including Senator Webb’s victory in 2006, Senator Warner’s victory in 2008 and President Obama’s historic victory in 2008. With the investments that President Obama and the Democratic Party will make in Virginia in 2012, I am confident that our party will hold on to this Senate seat in 2012.”