Virginia's Allen Aims to Take Back US Senate Seat
Richmond, Va. (AP) - Virginia Republican George Allen officially began his political comeback Monday, announcing his intent to regain his old Senate seat in an e-mailed video that promises "an American comeback."
The Republican former governor who lost his Senate seat in a 2006 campaign riddled with embarrassments said in an Associated Press interview he will run a more disciplined campaign focused on issues straight out of the tea party playbook.
His 2-minute, 45-second video, sent to supporters and around noon Monday, champions sharp cuts in federal spending, an end to Democratic health reforms and a domestic energy policy more dependent on coal.
He also promised support for constitutional amendments that would allow states to veto federal laws, give the president line-item veto authority and require balanced federal budgets.
"Friends, it's time for an American comeback," Allen said in a professionally produced video aimed at his party's conservative activists who showed in last fall's GOP takeover of the U.S. House that they can help sway elections. "People are frustrated that Washington continues to ignore us."
Unlike his two previous U.S. Senate races, the GOP nomination this time is not Allen's for the asking.
Allen, 58, enters the race weeks after Virginia tea party leader Jamie Radtke declared her candidacy and with conservative Del. Bob Marshall, who finished a close second for a Senate nomination in 2008, angling toward another race next year.
Radtke issued a statement challenging Allen to explain votes he cast for earmarks to appropriations bills, deficit spending and endorsements of Republican moderates such as Arlen Specter.
Marshall said in an interview he may run because there's "a roaring silence among the candidates already announced on social issues like (Congress' repeal) of don't-ask, don't-tell," a measure that would allow gays to serve openly in the military.
In the days before his announcement, Allen toured Virginia with the conservative Americans For Prosperity, advancing its mandate for deep spending cuts and a drastically reduced federal role in American governance.
"And I have support from the tea party, and in fact they've come to me. The tea party has little groups all over the state and many of them have come to me and invited me to speak," Allen said in the interview.
Allen lost five years ago after what he concedes was a sloppy campaign. He stumbled in August of that year by calling a Webb campaign volunteer of Indian ancestry a "macaca," a term some cultures consider an ethnic disparagement. Posted on YouTube, video of the comment became an online hit and was grist for news reports and television comedians for weeks.
At a debate a few weeks later, he chafed at a question about his mother's Jewish heritage, accusing a panelist of "making aspersions about people because of their religious beliefs." Her father, Felix Lumbroso, was a resistance fighter whom the Nazis imprisoned in her native Tunisia during World War II.
Allen said he's prepared to address those missteps in his new campaign.
"On the issue of macaca, that was a college kid who was there doing his job and I should not have drawn him into it. I regret it and I have apologized to him for it. I regret that it took away from the very serious issues of that campaign, and this campaign will be fought on those issues," Allen told the AP in a telephone interview as the video was released.
"On a personal level, that was very hard on us, on (wife) Susan, on my children, hearing all that stuff that was being said about me, and so as a person, as a parent and as a husband, I'm going to do a much better job this time," Allen said.
Democratic Sen. Jim Webb, who defeated Allen by about 9,000 votes, has not said whether he will run next year. Webb, 64, has kept a low political profile, focusing on Senate business and doing little fundraising.
The cowboy-booted, tobacco-chewing namesake son of Hall of Fame Washington Redskins and Los Angeles Rams coach George Allen ran tightly scripted, disciplined and victorious campaigns for governor in 1993 and for Senate in 2000.
Allen remains popular among the state's GOP establishment and party activists, and his desire to win back his old seat has been widely acknowledged among them for months.
Allen dismissed the suggestion that payback against Webb influenced his decision to run.
"I respect Sen. Webb, but he tells Virginians one thing and then votes with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and all the other Washington liberals," Allen said.
Webb spokesman Will Jenkins said the senator is focusing on Senate business now and will address his 2012 plans within the next three months.