Webb will not seek re-election in 2012

It’s official: U.S. Sen. Jim Webb will not run for a second term representing Virginia in the United States Senate in 2012.

“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 Wednesday morinng, confirming months of speculation that the Democrat was hedging about a possible run.

Webb won the seat in 2006 in an upset of Republican George Allen, who had entered the ’06 election cycle as a prohibitive favorite to win a second term and was considered at the time a contender for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. The Allen campaign imploded in the summer of 2006 after a controversy that erupted over his characterization of a Webb campaign volunteer filming an Allen campaign event in Southwest Virginia using a racial slur.

Even with the boost from that controversy, Webb won a narrow victory, defeating Allen by 9,000 votes in an election with voter turnout just short of 2.4 million. The Webb win came in the midst of a several-year boost of Democratic fortunes in Virginia that culminated in 2008 with Barack Obama becoming the first Democrat to win the state’s electoral votes since 1964.

That appears for now to have been a high-water mark for Virginia Democrats. Republicans swept the 2009 statewide races and unseated three Democratic incumbents in the 2010 congressional elections.

Riding the wave of Republican resurgence, Allen announced last month that he will be a candidate for the Republican Senate nomination. Former governor and current Democratic National Committee chair Tim Kaine would appear to be the early frontrunner on the Democratic side if he were to enter the race. Another top Democrat who could generate interest is a former DNC chair, Terry McAuliffe, who lost a 2009 Democratic primary for the party’s gubernatorial nomination, but has been since gearing up for an anticipated run at the 2013 party nomination for governor.

Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at freepress2@ntelos.net.

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