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Senate Finance Chairman Colgan says he is unlikely to run for reelection

Rosalind Helderman

The Senate's longest serving member and chairman of its most powerful committee said today that he is unlikely to run for reelection in 2011. Sen. Charles J. Colgan (D-Prince William) said he was diagnosed with prostate cancer more than two years ago and that at age 83, he thinks it may be time to retire.

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

But Colgan noted he has twice before decided not to run again for his seat, only to be convinced first by Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) and then by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) to seek reelection again. This time again, he said, he's made no final decision. "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 have a dramatic impact on the balance of power in the chamber. Colgan's district is heavily Republican and he acknowledged it was "doubtful" another Democrat without his longstanding ties could win it. However, Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw noted Colgan's seat could be shorn up for Democrats through redistricting.

Colgan said today, however, that he will be serving on the conference committee to work out differences between the Senate and House budgets this year. He had been telling colleagues that he would not serve on the committee, which would have been a dramatic departure from the normal practice of Finance Committee chairmen.

But as chairman of the committee, Colgan sponsors the budget bill and he said today that he has learned Senate rules require that any conference committee include the bill's sponsor. Besides, he said he has been feeling stronger in recent days and now feels up to the grueling budget task.

"Right now, I feel real good," he said. "With cancer, you have good days and bad days. Most of mine are good."

Saslaw, the chamber's second most senior member, said Colgan's loss would be a major blow. "We're having some very serious brainpower walk out of here," Saslaw said. "You lose a staggering amount of institutional memory when some of these guys walk out of here."

Colgan, a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corps and the U.S. Air Force, founded the regional air carrier Colgan Air. His 45-year friendship with fellow Prince William legislator, Republican Del. Harry Parrish, was one of the great bipartisan friendships of the General Assembly. Parrish died in 2006.

Saslaw said Colgan is "sharp as a tack" and "knows the budget cold." Plus, he added, "He's the nicest guy. If you can't get along with Chuck Colgan, you can't get along with anyone."

By Rosalind Helderman  |  February 24, 2010; 1:39 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly 2010 , Rosalind Helderman , State Senate  
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