- The Washington Times - Friday, June 23, 2006

RICHMOND — Democratic senatorial candidate James H. Webb Jr. said yesterday he would have voted against his party’s two proposals to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq because a deadline is not the answer.

“I don’t think that an artificial timeline emanating from the Congress is a workable concept,” said Mr. Webb, a former secretary of the Navy.

Mr. Webb, who is running against incumbent Sen. George Allen, a Republican, said U.S. leaders should instead clarify they have no plans for a long-term occupation in Iraq and continue to work with other Middle Eastern countries on an exit strategy that would not jeopardize the region’s stability and get American troops out as soon as possible.

Mr. Allen’s campaign has criticized Mr. Webb this week, as the Iraq war was debated on Capitol Hill, saying he has been “inconsistent” in his stance on the war.

“He has publicly rejected a specific timetable for withdrawal, then said we should withdraw forces within two years,” said Allen campaign manager Dick Wadhams. “He has said he would not withdraw troops immediately while in another interview he said ‘I just think we need to get our people out.’ ”

Mr. Webb’s statement came minutes after Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, said he would do everything in his power to help him defeat Mr. Allen in the November election.

“Jim, I’ll put it all at your disposal,” Mr. Kaine told Mr. Webb in the building that houses the governor’s political action committee headquarters in Richmond. “Anything we can do we want to do to make sure you’re successful.”

Mr. Kaine also called Mr. Webb a “strong independent voice” who appeals to Democrats, independents, and moderate Republicans. He also said he wanted somebody who would not be “a congressional rubber stamp for an administration,” referring to Mr. Allen’s voting with President Bush 97 percent of the time, and a full-term senator, referring to Mr. Allen’s exploring a presidential run in 2008.

Mr. Webb, 60, defeated former lobbyist and longtime Democratic activist Harris N. Miller in the primary last week. Mr. Webb was a Navy secretary during the Reagan administration, a decorated Vietnam veteran and best-selling author who supported Mr. Allen in 2000.

Mr. Kaine acknowledged that unseating an incumbent in the U.S. Senate is tough but said: “Ever since David walked out with a few stones on a battlefield against a big guy, the underdog has again and again come through.”

Mr. Kaine’s endorsement follows two polls that show Mr. Webb gaining on Mr. Allen and six days before candidates must file new finance reports with the Federal Election Commission. Reports filed with the agency May 24 show Mr. Allen had $7.5 million in cash, compared with $220,000 for Mr. Webb.

Mr. Kaine’s public support should help Mr. Webb with black voters, who leaned toward Mr. Miller in the primary, and give him a financial boost. In last year’s gubernatorial race, Mr. Kaine received almost 90 percent of the black vote and raised nearly $17 million.

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