In a huge development for the 2012 Senate races, Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) has announced that he will not seek re-election.
At first glance, Webb’s retirement seems like it could make things even tougher for Democrats in a swing state, which Barack Obama carried as the first Democrat to do so since 1964, but where the Republicans made very strong gains in 2009 and 2010.
Webb, a Vietnam veteran and former Republican who had served in the Reagan administration, left the Republican Party due to the key issues of the Iraq War and economic inequality. He was then narrowly elected in an upset in 2006, defeating Republican Sen. George Allen — who launched his own campaign last month, to try to win the seat back. Allen had previously been expected to win easily and then launch a 2008 presidential campaign. The trouble came in August 2006, of course, after he was videotaped by a Webb campaign tracker, who was Indian-American, calling the person “macaca,” a type of monkey. This was widely interpreted as being a somewhat obscure racial slur, often used by French colonists in Africa — which was the background of Allen’s mother.
Webb had been hinting for some time that he was tired of politics, with weak fundraising and public comments criticizing President Obama’s handling of the health care issue.Here is Webb’s full statement:
Statement of Senator Jim Webb
Washington, DC–Today Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) issued the following statement:
Five years ago this week, on February 8, 2006, I announced my intention to run for the United States Senate. We had neither campaign funds nor a staff. We were challenged in a primary, and trailed the incumbent in the general election by more than 30 points in the polls.
Over the next nine months we focused relentlessly on the need to reorient our national security policy, to restore economic fairness and social justice, and to bring greater accountability in our government. I will always be grateful for the spirit and energy that was brought into this campaign by thousands of loyal and committed volunteers. Their enthusiasm and sheer numbers were truly the difference in that election.
It has been a great and continuing privilege to serve in the United States Senate. I am very proud of my talented and dedicated staff, which has worked tirelessly to resolve the issues on which I based my candidacy, and to protect the interests of all Virginians in this national forum. Among other contributions we have given our Post- 9/11 veterans the best GI Bill since World War Two; we have taken the lead in reforming our criminal justice system; we have led the way toward stronger relations in East and Southeast Asia; and we have been a strong voice in calling on China to act more responsibly in the world community. We will continue to work on these and other issues throughout the rest of my term.
However, 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.
Notwithstanding this decision, I have every intention of remaining involved in the issues that affect the well-being and the future of our country.