Callahan Set To Retire As N.Va. Delegate

Del. Vincent F. Callahan Jr. (R-McLean), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, was first elected in 1967.
Del. Vincent F. Callahan Jr. (R-McLean), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, was first elected in 1967. (By Robert A. Reeder For The Washington Post)
By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Del. Vincent F. Callahan Jr., one of Northern Virginia's most popular and influential leaders, said yesterday that he's retiring after nearly four decades, a decision that could greatly reduce the region's influence in Richmond.

As chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Callahan (R-Fairfax) has steered tens of millions dollars to projects in Northern Virginia, including new roads, buildings at George Mason University and educational programs at the Wolf Trap performing arts center.

Callahan said yesterday that he's accomplished all he can for the region.

"The stuff I have done over the years has been unsurpassed for any Northern Virginia legislator in history," said Callahan, 75, the second-longest-serving member of the House. "I probably delivered more to my region and to the state than anyone else.

"But you get to a point where you have done everything you set out to do and it is time to move on," he said.

Callahan's retirement means a Northern Virginia legislator probably won't be in charge of any of the money committees in the General Assembly, assuming Republicans maintain majorities in both chambers.

His departure also provides Democrats, who have set their sights on making gains in increasingly liberal Northern Virginia, with a prime opportunity to pick up a seat in the House. Although President Bush narrowly carried Callahan's district in 2004, Democrat James Webb won all the precincts last year to capture a U.S. Senate seat. In 2001, the last year he was challenged, Callahan won with 60 percent of the vote. He is also the only elected Republican state officeholder inside the Capital Beltway.

"We are confident we will be able to prevail in that district," said Del. Brian J. Moran (D-Alexandria), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

Two Democrats, lawyer Richard "Rip" Sullivan Jr. and community activist Margaret "Margie" Vanderhye, are vying for their party's nomination. Businessman Dave Hunt and Stuart Mendelson, a former Fairfax County supervisor, have been mentioned as possible Republican candidates.

Regarded as one of the more moderate Republicans in the General Assembly, Callahan took a particular interest in fighting for funding for human services and education programs.

Alan G. Merten, president of George Mason, said he took a "gasp for breath" when he learned yesterday that Callahan is retiring. Merten said Callahan was instrumental in a recent building boom at the campus, which has resulted in new facilities at the main Fairfax branch and campuses in Arlington and Prince William counties. Last year, the university formally recognized him for his efforts.

"Every year, I would find myself having conversations with Vince as to what George Mason needed," Merten said. "In Vince, we knew we had a friend with power, and now we are not sure who is going to step forward and be that friend."

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