Former Virginia senator Jim Webb on Wednesday evening announced that he is launching an exploratory committee to consider running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.

"Over the past few months thousands of concerned Americans from across the political spectrum have urged me to run for president," he said in a video released on YouTube Wednesday. "I have decided to launch an exploratory committee to examine whether I should run for president in 2016. I made this decision after reflecting on numerous political commentaries."

Sitting in front of a simple, blue backdrop, Webb detailed his military service and professional career during the 14-minute video. Webb emphasized his accomplishments as a public servant. Among the issues stressed in the announcement were the need to address criminal justice reform and growing economic inequality.

The announcement came as a surprise to political watchers. Webb, who had said previously that he was considering a presidential run, is the first potential Democratic candidate to launch an exploratory committee. It is unclear if his announcement will precipitate other Democratic exploratory committees in the near future.

"In politics, nobody owns me and I don't owe anybody anything except for the promise that I will work for the well-being of all Americans, and especially those who otherwise would have no voice in the corridors of power. All I ask is that you consider the record I am putting before you and give me the opportunity to earn your trust.

In a subtle dig at former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who is widely expected to run for the Democratic nomination as well, Webb also talked about his efforts to "reengage in East Asia." Clinton's experience as secretary of state are considered central to her potential presidential pitch.

"We put this issue on the table two years before President Obama came to office and three years before his administration announced what they called a 'pivot' toward this vital region. We led this change in policy," he said.