- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 24, 2002

RICHMOND State Sen. L. Louise Lucas is abandoning her race for a seat in Congress, citing weak financial support from the Democratic Party and a need to focus on her legislative district, party sources said yesterday.
Mrs. Lucas' withdrawal from the 4th Congressional District race leaves the Democrats without a nominee less than three months before the election and averts a rematch of a bitter special election race last year that cost $7.1 million in one month.
As of June 30, Mrs. Lucas reported only $14,146 on hand to challenge Rep. J. Randy Forbes, a Republican who reported $334,459 in his campaign treasury.
"The financial support for my candidacy in Democratic circles here and in Virginia and in Washington has not materialized as it did in 2001," Mrs. Lucas said in a statement read by former state Democratic Chairman Paul Goldman.
Mrs. Lucas called Gov. Mark R. Warner, also a Democrat, and told him of her decision yesterday, Mr. Goldman said.
The announcement caught Virginia Democrats off guard, and state party Chairman Lawrence H. Framme III said chances of fielding another candidate were "minimal."
"Practicalities are practicalities. It's a district the Republicans skewed in favor of Republican candidates in redistricting," Mr. Framme said.
Last year, Mrs. Lucas, a Democrat from Portsmouth, and Mr. Forbes, then a state senator from Chesapeake, waged a high-profile fight over the seat left vacant by the death of Rep. Norman Sisisky, a Democrat.
With the Republicans holding a slim majority in the House, both parties poured cash into the district, which ranges from the industrial city of Portsmouth and suburban Chesapeake westward across an expanse of rural, agricultural southeastern Virginia.
Mr. Forbes barely outspent Mrs. Lucas, $864,000 to $844,000. However, the National Republican Congressional Committee spent $3.5 million, while the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee kicked in about $2 million.
By the end of their 32-day campaign, the candidates and parties combined had spent what amounted to $52 for every vote cast.
The parties also mustered as much political muscle as possible from Washington. Vice President Richard B. Cheney and Rep. J.C. Watts Jr. of Oklahoma campaigned for Mr. Forbes; Reps. John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania and Ike Skelton of Missouri stumped for Mrs. Lucas.
Mrs. Lucas was traveling yesterday and was not available for comment, an aide in her office said.
In her statement, Mrs. Lucas said that, given her difficulty raising money, it became clear to her that her area of the state would suffer disproportionately from budget cuts as Mr. Warner and the General Assembly cope with a $1.5 billion revenue shortfall in the next two years.
"The bottom line is this: my constituents cannot afford to have their state senator campaigning for Congress at this crucial time when apparently the state may have to take extraordinary and extraordinarily painful actions to balance the budget," she said.
Her top concern is sparing the jobs of hundreds of Department of Corrections workers at state prisons marked for closure in Southampton County, Mr. Goldman said.

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