Senator Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia, has decided not to run for re-election, avoiding a blockbuster rematch with the man he beat in 2006, George Allen, and giving Senate Republicans another opportunity to help them reclaim the majority.
In a statement, Mr. Webb said that he had “decided to return to the private sector, where I have spent most of my professional life, and will not seek re-election in 2012.”
The announcement is a disappointment to Democrats and a blow to President Obama and Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who had urged Mr. Webb, in his first term, to run again.
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There had been rumblings for weeks that Mr. Webb — a former Navy secretary who was once a Republican — would choose not to continue in the Senate. But Mr. Webb and his staff had remained tight-lipped.
In his statement, Mr. Webb cited his work on a G.I. bill, changes to the criminal justice system and efforts to improve relations with southeast Asia as accomplishments he was proud of.
“Notwithstanding this decision, I have every intention of remaining involved in the issues that affect the well-being and the future of our country,” Mr. Webb said.
Mr. Webb defeated Mr. Allen in 2006 in a race perhaps best remembered for an incident in which Mr. Allen, then the incumbent, was caught on videotape calling a young, Democratic operative of Indian descent “macaca.”
That controversy helped Mr. Webb win a narrow victory and ended Mr. Allen’s hopes of competing for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. But last month, Mr. Allen announced plans to challenge Mr. Webb to reclaim his seat.
Mr. Allen now faces a challenge from a Tea Party activist in Virginia for the Republican nomination.
On the Democratic side, attention now turns squarely to Mr. Kaine, who served four years as governor and could be a natural choice to run against Mr. Allen next year. His popularity in the state would make him a formidable candidate.
Mr. Kaine has repeatedly said he will remain as chairman of the Democratic Party, but an appeal by Mr. Obama could change his mind.
In a statement, Senator Patty Murray of Washington, chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, wrote: “The people of Virginia have been well represented in the United States by two Democratic senators who are fierce advocates for their state. As Republicans face a brutal primary between a flawed Washington establishment candidate and a right-wing extremist who is raising money at a good clip, Democrats will field a strong candidate.”
This article “Senator Webb Will Not Run for Re-Election” originally appeared at The New York Times.
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