Allen on Monday announced his candidacy for the seat that he held for a single six-year term from 2001-2007. A once-popular Republican, Allen, governor from 1994-1998, had been looked at as a contender for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination when he ran into trouble in his 2006 Senate re-election race with Democrat Jim Webb. Comfortably ahead of Webb in the summertime polls, Allen was caught on video widely seen on YouTube referring to a Webb staffer who was on hand to monitor a Southwest Virginia campaign event using a racial slur. The Macaca-gate scandal boosted Webb to an upset victory in the race and sent Allen into political exile as Virginia Democrats continued a decade-long ascendancy.
The 2009 Republican sweep of the statewide races and 2010 midterms revolt that sent three incumbent Democratic congressmen packing has breathed new life into the Virginia GOP generally, and Allen has made efforts to repair his image with a schedule of public appearances that led to the widespread speculation about his imminent return to the campaign stage.
“You know me as someone willing to fight for the people of Virginia, and I’d like the responsibility to fight for you again,” Allen said in a campaign announcement posted on YouTube on Monday and also available at his campaign website, GeorgeAllen.com.
In the announcement, Allen talks about the need to repeal and replace the “government-mandated health-care experiment,” pass a balanced budget amendment and the line-item veto and reduce energy costs by “unleashing our natural resources and creativity.”
“You know what we’ve been getting from Washington? Overspending, fingerpointing and government mandates. What’s missing? Listening,” Allen said.
“The pivotal elections coming up in 2012 are going to determine the trajectory of our country, whether the opportunity to achieve the American dream will continue to decline or begin to ascend again.”
“It’s time for an American comeback, a time for leaders in Washington who listen to we, the people, adhere to foundational principles, rein in spending, and start creating opportunities for more jobs.”
The announcement was greeted with critics from the right and left. RedState.com blogger Erick Erickson said today that he will endorse Tea Party stalwart Jamie Radtke as the Republican candidate to run for the open Senate seat in 2012.
“Once someone has been beaten, I tend to think we need not run them again for the same seat. Republicans have a habit of doing that and, at this time, I think we need some fresh faces,” Erickson wrote on his blog, adding that Allen will have some “serious problems” to address, most significantly a voting record that Erickson said is “out of step with most of the grassroots activists engaged in Republican primaries today.”
From the left, Democratic Party of Virginia chairman Brian Moran also pointed to what he termed Allen’s “mediocre record.”
“Assuming he makes it out of a competitive Republican primary, I’m confident that those voters will once again make the right choice between Allen’s politics as usual and Jim Webb’s substantive leadership on jobs, national security and criminal justice,” Moran said in a statement.
Webb has not made any statements as to his intentions for the seat come 2012. There has been speculation that Webb might not seek a second term. The short list of candidates who could replace Webb on the Democratic ticket in 2012 starts and stops right now with Tim Kaine, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee and former Virginia governor and lieutenant governor.
Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at [email protected].