The big question in the 29th Senate District is whether or not Senator Chuck Colgan will announce his retirement. There’s been quite a bit of speculation here and elsewhere, with most others expecting that he will run, and my bet that he won’t. With the April 13th state filing deadline approaching quickly, that mystery should be resolved very soon.
Those who believe he will run for re-election point to him collecting petition signatures recently and the obvious pressure from the DPVA for him to remain. Colgan’s daughter recently announced during a meeting that Colgan would run. And Colgan isn’t at all interested in leaving the seat when it really looks like Republican Bob Fitzsimmonds would win if it’s an open seat. So why would I continue to think that he won’t run?
The Virginia Senate just doesn’t hold the allure for Colgan that it once had, and in the end if you don’t really want to be there, you shouldn’t be. Many of Colgan’s dear friends are no longer there, Colgan doesn’t seem to relish the partisan battles that are ongoing, and in order to stay there Colgan is going to have to actually mount a vigorous re-election campaign, which he pretty much hasn’t had to do before. Pulling him in the other direction are the proceeds from the sale of Colgan Air, his apparent desire to marry his long-time girlfriend, and his age. Partisan politics aside, the guy clearly has done his share for the District and deserves some time off to enjoy life without being engaged in partisan politics on an almost daily basis.
Colgan’s effort to collect petition signatures is about as lackadaisical as they come. When his daughter made that announcement it was largely unacknowledged, hardly the behavior of a candidate who wants to fire up a re-election campaign. Colgan met recently with his friend with Hal Parrish, and the rumor goes that Colgan tried to entice Hal to run as an independent in the 29th District, which really isn’t a ridiculous possibility at all. Hal has a six figure campaign account after inheriting the campaign account of his late father, Colgan would likely throw a bunch of money at him, and Hal and Colgan are ideologically pretty similar. Colgan wouldn’t likely have too much heartburn if his seat went to his friend and Harry Parrish’s son. He wouldn’t do great in a Republican convention, but in a general election, maybe a lot of money and a familiar name could put him over the top.
There’s also the possibility that Colgan will be challenged by Democrats. Gary Friedman has a visceral dislike of the policies that Colgan has promoted and is terribly frustrated with Colgan’s pretty legendary lack of support for fellow local Democrats. As the factions within the DPVA continue their intramural brawling, having some break away and start challenging elected officials is hardly a remote possibility. While it would be an uphill battle for a Democrat to defeat Colgan in a primary challenge, having a primary and a general election battle both would make sticking around even less palatable. Where’s the fun being a senior legislator when your local party is in tatters and sniping at you and you face a considerable challenge in a general election? Taking the money and going on a long and well-earned vacation probably looks pretty tempting, comparatively.
If Colgan really had succumbed to pressure from the DPVA, I imagine he would have announced quite a while ago. Now it continues to look like Colgan is trying to engineer a way to exit that will satisfy his desire to have the seat turned over to an acceptable replacement, and make the announcement late enough so that little time is available for someone to respond to his move before the filing deadline expires. The closer we get to the filing deadline without any definitive statement by Colgan, the more it looks like backroom politics are raging as he tries to engineer his way out of office on his own terms. If we start seeing opportunist Democrats start jumping in, as is happening in Woodbridge with Hilda Barg’s apparent retirement, there won’t be a whole lot of indicators remaining that might make us believe there’s any chance at all for Colgan to stay.
So I’m still thinking that Colgan is likely to step down.
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