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Posted December 17, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Senior lawmaker Wolf to leave office in 2014

Politicos praise Wolf, others speculate on who will win his seat

By Joe Beck

The announcement from U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Vienna, that he plans to retire after 34 years in Congress shook up the 10th congressional district he represented.

Wolf, 74, was already facing opposition from three Democrats in 2014, although political handicappers still saw him as a favorite for re-election.

Some Democrats reacted with hope that Wolf's retirement will create an opening for them in a district where presidential and gubernatorial elections have been narrowly contested. The district went 50 percent to 49 percent for Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election.

One blogger on the liberal website Daily Kos said he expected a "very competitive" campaign without Wolf on the ballot.

"Wolf's departure gives Democrats a great shot at a district that Wolf's personal popularity has long kept out of reach," the blogger Darth Jeff wrote.

State Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Upperville, one of several Republicans rumored as a possible successor to Wolf, quickly ruled out running for his seat.

"I am absolutely not interested in running for Congress," Vogel said. "I will tell you as somebody who has a family and a job, I am fortunate to be in a state that has a citizen legislature."

"Washington is a very, very different place," Vogel added.

Vogel joined other elected officials in praising Wolf, citing his attention to constituent service as one of the hallmarks of his office.

Vogel said someone from her office was speaking with a representative from Wolf's staff about a mutual constituent issue only hours before he announced his retirement Tuesday.

"Frank Wolf had a very long and distinguished career in Congress and developed a skill set and expertise around a number of issues," Vogel said, adding that his retirement leaves "a huge void."

Barbara Comstock, a Republican delegate, and Artur Davis, a former Democratic congressman from Alabama who is now a Republican and Northern Virginia resident, have also been mentioned as possible Republican candidates.

Mayor Elizabeth Minor of Winchester said she has known Wolf for at least 25 years.

As well as being a wonderful congressman, I had privilege also of calling him a very good friend," Minor said. "He was very accessible. He always returned my calls and emails and he was always there to help if I had questions."

Both of Virginia's Democratic senators issued written statements praising Wolf for his long congressional career.

Sen. Tim Kaine cited Wolf's "leadership on the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and long time support of religious freedom around the world -- an effort that has inspired me to take up the cause of religious freedom in my own work on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee."

Sen. John Warner called Wolf "a true friend and a great partner, both when I served as Virginia governor and since I've joined Congress. He is a tireless and leading advocate for religious freedom around the world."

Republican Gov. Robert F. McDonnell also paid tribute to Wolf as "a Virginia institution."

"He has sought out common ground, he has worked across the aisle, he has represented the people of the commonwealth with distinction and grace," McDonnell said in a written statement.

In a news release Tuesday, Wolf said he will be working for human rights and religion freedom, both domestically and internationally, upon his retirement.

"As a follower of Jesus, I am called to work for justice and reconciliation, and to be an advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves," Wolf said in the release.

Wolf lives in Vienna with his wife Carolyn.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com

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