Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., said Wednesday he will not seek re-election after his first term, leaving his party with an ever widening challenge as it tries to retain a majority in the U.S. Senate in the 2012 elections.
In an e-mail statement, Webb, 61, said he would return to the private sector, but offered no additional details of his plans.
"It has been a great and continuing privilege to serve in the United States Senate," he said. "I have every intention of remaining involved in the issues that affect the well-being and the future of our country."
Webb was elected to the Senate in an upset victory in 2006, ousting popular Republican Sen. George Allen. Allen has already announced his candidacy for Webb's seat in 2012, although he will face primary opposition from within the GOP.
Democrats now maintain a 53-47 majority in the Senate. They must defend 23 seats next year, including two held by independents.
Many seat elections will be held in swing states where Republicans hope to mount strong challenges. In contrast, only 10 GOP-held seats will be on the ballot in 2012.
Since taking his seat, Webb has focused much of his energy on international issues and has served as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel.
"Among other contributions, we have given our Post- 9/11 veterans the best GI Bill since World War II. We have taken the lead in reforming our criminal justice system. We have led the way toward stronger relations in East and Southeast Asia," he said.
Webb said he will continue to work on these issues throughout the rest of his term.
Webb is a former Marine who saw combat in Vietnam. He became the first Naval Academy graduate in history to serve in the military and then become Secretary of the Navy.
Webb is the fourth senator to announce plans to retire when their term expires. The others are Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn.