Colgan says he probably won't seek reelection to Virginia Senate

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sen. Charles J. Colgan, the Virginia Senate's longest-serving member and chairman of its most powerful committee, said Wednesday that he probably won't run for reelection in 2011.

The Prince William County Democrat said that he received a diagnosis of prostate cancer more than two years ago and that at age 83, he thinks it might be time to retire.

"I'll probably not run," he said. "I'm not Strom Thurmond."

But Colgan said that he has twice before decided not to run again for his seat, only to be persuaded first by Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) and then by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D). "I'll leave the door open just a tiny little bit," he said.

With Democrats holding only a two-seat majority in the Senate, Colgan's decision could dramatically affect the balance of power in the chamber. His district is heavily Republican, and he said he doubted that another Democrat without his long-standing ties could win it. Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said that Democrats' chances to win Colgan's seat could be improved through redistricting.

Saslaw, the chamber's second-most senior member, said Colgan's departure would be a major blow.

"You lose a staggering amount of institutional memory when some of these guys walk out of here," Saslaw said.

Colgan, a state senator since 1976, heads the Senate finance committee. He is a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corps and the Air Force. He founded the regional air carrier Colgan Air but is no longer an owner.

"He's the nicest guy," Saslaw said. "If you can't get along with Chuck Colgan, you can't get along with anyone."

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