An outspoken conservative Virginia lawmaker in a competitive district said Wednesday he won't seek re-election this year, a decision that could make it harder for Republicans to keep their slim majority in the state Senate.
GOP Sen. Dick Black said Wednesday he will not run again for his Northern Virginia seat, which includes parts of Loudoun and Prince William counties. The district has shifted Democratic and is expected to be one of several competitive Senate races later this year.
Black, 74, said he isn't retiring because he's afraid to lose his seat, but because he wants to spend more time with his 16 grandchildren.
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"It's not anything external, just kind of a need to focus on a whole bunch of grandchildren," Black said.
Black is a Vietnam War veteran and former military lawyer who served in the House of Delegates before becoming a state senator.
He's frequently been at the center of controversy during his political career. In 2016, he resigned as state co-chair of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz's presidential campaign shortly before taking a trip to Syria and promising support for the government of President Bashar Assad, a move at odds with official U.S. policy. And Black also once sent lawmakers plastic fetuses to underscore his opposition toward abortion, dismaying Republican leaders.
Black said he's proud of his record on social issues, but said he'd also satisfied with his role on other issues such as fixing local transportation problems and making sure rape kits don't go untested.
Black also said he hopes he'll be remembered as a pro-business Republican who never voted for a tax increase but also had a populist streak and wasn't afraid to oppose powerful corporate interests like Dominion Energy.
Republicans currently have a 21-18 advantage in the Senate, with a special election in a heavily Democratic district set for next week.
Democrats are hoping to swing control of the upper chamber in this year's off-year election. They've made gains in state legislative and congressional elections in the last two years, thanks in large part to voter unhappiness with President Donald Trump. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam won Black's district by 11 percentage points in 2017, a 16 percentage point partisan swing from the 2013 gubernatorial contest.
Three Democrats have previously announced their plans to run for the seat, including Del. John Bell.