RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Jim Webb told The Associated Press that he's leaving office at the end of a single term because he's got nothing more to prove.
Webb said in a brief telephone interview Friday that he has accomplished much of what he campaigned on in 2006, when he successfully launched a long-shot bid to unseat then-Sen. George Allen. Webb also said he has more than 20 months to finish what he wants to achieve.
"We spent a lot of time thinking about it," Webb, 65, said in the interview. "It's an eight-year decision, not a two-year decision. I'm very competitive, you know that, but sitting down with my family, we said, 'Six years is about right for me.'"
Webb's Wednesday announcement that he would not seek re-election rocked Virginia politics, setting off a scramble among Democrats to field a candidate who could hold the seat for the party in 2012. Some Democrats hope to recruit former Gov. Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, to run.
Republicans, intent on winning back the seat and the Senate majority they lost with Webb's narrow victory five years ago, believe Webb's exit improves their odds. Among the declared Republican candidates is Allen, a former Republican governor and congressman who served one Senate term.
Webb laughed off the suggestion that the prospect of a tough rematch with Allen influenced his decision to retire.
"You can't let this get personal," he said.
Allen already faces one opponent for the GOP nomination, Virginia tea party activist Jamie Radtke, and others are considering a run.
Webb said he took pride in several achievements, including sponsoring and guiding a new package of benefits for U.S. military veterans, the GI Bill of Rights, through Congress three years ago.
He had campaigned against what he believed was an imprudent decision by Republican President George W. Bush to commit U.S. troops into Iraq, a conflict in which Webb's son fought as a Marine. Webb has seen the drawdown of American combat troops there.
But there's unfinished business in his final 22 months, he said, particularly on his campaign pledge to reform a criminal justice system that Webb contends incarcerates too many people at too high a cost and with poor results. He said the bill got bogged down last year but he's confident it will pass.
"We're going to get it done," Webb said.
The Senate, however, should not become someone's career, he said.
"My view of this is kind of old school. The way this place was designed, the Senate was sort of the gathering of the citizen-legislators, people who could bring experience from other areas into the national debate," Webb said.
A Naval Academy graduate and decorated Marine veteran of the Vietnam War, Webb brought a broad resume to the Senate. He was a lawyer, Navy Secretary under President Ronald Reagan, combat journalist, best-selling writer of novels and movie screenplays about Vietnam combat before bolting the GOP to run for the Senate in 2006 as a Democrat.
"I think I've given our country and the people who elected me exactly what I told them I would give them. I've given them a full measure of my devotion for six full years," Webb said. "That's about it."
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