(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., announced Wednesday he has decided not to seek re-election in the Senate, passing up what was expected to be a tough race to retain his seat in Congress.
“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.
If he had decided to run, the Virginia Democrat would likely have faced a rematch with former Sen. George Allen. In 2006, Webb emerged victorious against Allen in a tough race and the 2012 race had been viewed as a toss-up. On the GOP side, Allen is getting a challenge from Tea Party candidate Jamie Radtke.
Without Webb, Democrats will now have to scramble to find a strong alternative.
Possible candidates to replace Webb on the Democratic ticket include Tim Kaine, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Kaine has previously denied an interest in running for this seat. But President Obama could help encourage him to run since both men want to be able to carry Virginia in 2012.
If Kaine does not run, other possible candidates include former Rep. Tom Perriello and ex-DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe. Perriello’s liberal voting record could give him troubles in this purple state. McAuliffe, meanwhile, seems more interested in running for governor in 2013.
In his statement announcing his decision, Webb – who served as a combat Marine in Vietnam – touted his work on the GI Bill, criminal justice system reforms, and relationships in East and Southeast Asia.
He said he has “every intention of remaining involved in the issues that affect the well-being and the future of our country.”
Webb now joins a growing list of Democrats who have opted to step aside rather than seek re-election, including Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.
A whopping 23 Senate seats currently held by Democrats are up for re-election in 2012.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio