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Webb to Leave Senate

Webb to Leave Senate

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U.S. senator Jim Webb of Virginia, who initially opposed repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" but ended up voting for it, announced Wednesday that he will not seek reelection in 2012.

Webb, a Democrat, issued a statement saying he will "return to the private sector, where I have spent most of my professional life," The New York Times reports. He was first elected to the Senate in 2006.

A former Republican who was secretary of the Navy under President Reagan, Webb was considered one of the Senate's more conservative Democrats. Last May he voted against repealing DADT because, he said at the time, he wanted the Department of Defense to complete its review of the policy first. In December he joined a majority of senators in voting to end the policy, saying Defense officials had assured him repeal could be implemented in a manner that would not disrupt unit cohesion.

His resignation does not necessarily bode ill for the Democrats in the 2012 race, writes Times blogger Nate Silver. He says Webb would have been "at best, a modest favorite" over a Republican nominee next year. Possible Democratic candidates Tim Kaine, a former Virginia governor, and Tom Perriello, a former congressman, poll nearly as well against potential Republican opponents as Webb did, Silver reports. Likely Republican contenders, he says, include George Allen, the senator Webb beat in 2006; Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, known for his antigay stances; and the state's lieutenant governor, Bill Bolling.

"This is more of a jab to Democrats than a stomach-punch," Silver writes.

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