|U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, a Republican, spoke to members of the Leesburg Daybreak Rotary Club in Loudoun in August. Wolf, first elected in 1980, announced Dec. 17 he won’t seek reelection in 2014. Times-Mirror File Photo/Trevor Baratko|
U.S. Rep Frank Wolf (R-VA.-10th), elected the same year Ronald Reagan won the presidency, sent shock waves through the ranks of Virginia and congressional politicos today by announcing he won't seek reelection in 2014.
Wolf's decision opens up the floodgates to a pack of potential candidates -- both Republican and Democrat -- looking to win a seat that's been comfortably in GOP clutches for more than three decades.
Wolf hasn't had a single digit-margin contest in the general election since 1982.
In a prepared statement, Wolf said: “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. I plan to focus my future work on human rights and religious freedom – both domestic and international – as well as matters of the culture and the American family."
"My passion for these issues," Wolf continued, "has been influenced by the examples of President Ronald Reagan, former Congressmen Jack Kemp and Tony Hall, Chuck Colson, and the life of Member of Parliament William Wilberforce.”
Elected in 1980, the Northern Virginia Republican is often viewed as less of a partisan firebrand than some new Republicans in Congress, especially those affiliated with the tea party. Unlike many in the GOP, Wolf has refused to sign Grover Norquist's Taxpayer Protection Pledge.
In addition to regional transportation and infrastructure improvements, Wolf has consistently made human rights issues across the globe one of his key issues. In 2012, he published a memoir, “Prisoner of Conscience: One Man’s Crusade for Global Human and Religious Rights,” that featured his first-hand accounts of some of world's darkest scenes.
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) quickly praised Wolf's service to his constituents.
“Frank Wolf has been a true friend, and a great partner, both when I served as Virginia governor and since I’ve joined Congress," Warner said in a prepared statement this afternoon. "He is a tireless and leading advocate for religious freedom around the world.
"We have worked closely together on Northern Virginia transportation issues, and partnered in consecutive sessions of Congress on bipartisan legislation that would encourage the on-shoring of jobs back to Virginia which have moved overseas in recent years," Warner added. "Frank has also been a passionate advocate and reliable ally in my ongoing efforts to find common ground on issues surrounding our nation’s deficits and debt."
“Breaking" and "VA10" hashtags lit up Twitter within minutes of Wolf's announcement. Reporters and pundits quickly speculated that Virginia Del. Barbara Comstock, state Sen. Jill Vogel or outgoing attorney general and former gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli will seek the GOP nomination to replace Wolf.
Three Democrats have already announced campaigns for the 2014 race -- Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust, Fairfax attorney Richard Bolger and Leesburg architect Sam Kubba.
This story has been updated from an earlier version.