U.S. Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) participates in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee… (Mark Wilson / Getty Images )
WASHINGTON — In another blow to Democrats' chances of retaining the Senate beyond 2012, first-term Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) announced Wednesday he would not seek reelection.
"It has been a great and continuing privilege to serve in the United States Senate. … However, after much thought and consideration I have decided to return to the private sector, where I have spent most of my professional life," he said in a statement.
Webb notes in his statement that when he first announced his candidacy in 2006, he had "neither campaign funds nor a staff." At the time, he was seeking to challenge Republican incumbent Sen. George Allen, the state's former governor, who at the time was thought to be a major contender for the GOP's presidential nomination in 2008.
Webb narrowly defeated Allen that November, an outcome many attributed to Allen's so-called macaca moment, referring to his use of an obscure racial slur to describe a Webb staffer who trailed him in the race.
Allen already announced his candidacy to reclaim his seat in 2012. Virginia is one of 21 seats Democrats are defending next year, with their precarious majority seriously at risk. Already, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) has announced his retirement, as did independent Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, who caucuses with the Democrats.
One possible name Democrats could turn to in the race is Tim Kaine, the former governor and current Democratic National Committee chairman. He has denied interest in running, however.