Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., a flamboyant Republican from Winchester, announced yesterday that he will not seek reelection to the Virginia Senate this year.
Potts, 67, is best known for his colorful floor speeches, his penchant for bucking the conservative wing of his party and a failed, independent bid for governor in 2005.
In a tearful floor speech, he told his colleagues that, after 16 years, it is time to travel with his wife and spend more time with his grandchildren. Potts also alluded to what he views as the unfortunate movement of the Republican Party to the far right.
"The definition of a, quote, 'real Republican' has been altered so much that we can barely recognize what a Reagan or Eisenhower Republican looks like," Potts said. "Though we are a vanishing breed, there are still a few of us left who believe in governing from the middle."
Potts would have faced a tough and well-funded primary challenge in his Republican-leaning district, which includes Winchester, Clark and Frederick counties and parts of Loudoun and Fauquier counties.
His departure removes one of the Senate's leading moderates, a Republican who regularly cast the deciding vote against abortion restrictions as chairman of the Senate's Education and Health Committee. In fact, Potts had at least as many friends among Democrats as Republicans.
Said Sen. Janet D. Howell (D-Fairfax), after Potts's speech: "He's flamboyant. He's lively. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He drives people crazy. He's a reporter's dream. He's one of a kind. We're never going see one like him again."
-- Amy GardnerVideo Gambling Terminals RejectedThe Virginia House killed a gambling measure yesterday that some lawmakers had promoted as another way to raise money for transportation projects. The bill would have allowed the installation of thousands of video terminals that allow customers to bet on unidentified but already-run horse races.
Proponents said it could have raised as much as $350 million for the state's roads, a figure that opponents challenged. The bill passed the Senate, but a parliamentary measure to revive it in the House failed 72 to 25.
Opponents said they feared that passage of the bill would become intertwined with the ongoing transportation negotiations, making it impossible for conservative, anti-gambling lawmakers to vote for the roads funding.
"Had they swallowed that one, they wouldn't have swallowed the other one," said House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith (R-Salem).
"The coalition in the House would have fallen apart."
-- Tim Craig