- The Washington Times - Monday, March 5, 2007

Delegate Vincent F. Callahan Jr., the second-longest-serving member in the Virginia General Assembly, said yesterday he will not seek re-election this fall, ending a 40-year career.

“I think it’s a good time to go out,” the Fairfax County Republican told The Washington Times. “I’m going out at age 75 in my 40th session, with the 400th anniversary of Jamestown and having served 10 years on the [House] Appropriations Committee. Those are nice round figures.”

Mr. Callahan said he decided this would be his final term last year after grinding out the longest legislative session in Virginia history. Delegate Lacey E. Putney of Bedford, an independent elected in 1961 as a Democrat, is the longest-serving House member in state history.

Mr. Callahan’s decision opens up a seat in the Northern Virginia suburbs, where Democrats have had recent success but have been unable to shake the politically tested Mr. Callahan.

“I’m sorry to see him go,” said House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith, Salem Republican. “He’s just a great guy that has put in a lot of years and taught a lot of us about the way things should be done.”

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, told the Associated Press that Mr. Callahan’s 40 years of service in the House “demonstrates an amazing dedication not likely to be repeated.”

“Vince has been a great advocate not only for Northern Virginia but for the entire commonwealth,” Mr. Kaine said. “The people of the commonwealth are in his debt.”

Mr. Callahan, a Korean War veteran, took office in 1968.

At the time, Democrats ruled Richmond, cigar and cigarette smoke colored the walls of the House chamber and some barber shops in Richmond refused to serve blacks.

Mr. Callahan was one of 14 Republicans battling it out against 86 Democrats.

Since then, Mr. Callahan estimates he has made the 224-mile round trip from his home in McLean to Richmond about six times a month.

“I won’t miss that at all,” he said of the commute.

The D.C. native became chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee in 2000 when Republicans took over the legislature for the first time in 120 years.

As committee chairman, Mr. Callahan was at the forefront of bitter budget battles.

In 2001, the House and Gov. James S. Gilmore III, a Republican, battled the Senate over whether to freeze the state’s car-tax phaseout.

In 2004, Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, pushed through the largest tax increase in state history with the help of a group of maverick House Republicans.

Last year, Mr. Callahan spent weeks tucked away in rooms with budget negotiators while they tried to hash out a transportation deal with Senate Republicans.

The debate yielded the longest legislative session in state history, ending in June, and some of the most grueling days of his legislative career.

“It takes a lot of pressure off me,” Mr. Callahan said yesterday of his decision to retire. “I want to do something else. … I have served for one tenth of the existence of Virginia.”

He said he is the most proud of his work in improving education and mental health facilities, securing the state’s top-notch bond rating and playing a role in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.

So, what’s next for the 75-year-old?

First, he is looking forward to greeting Queen Elizabeth II when she visits Jamestown in May as part of Jamestown’s 400th anniversary celebration.

Then, “We have a farm up in Pennsylvania and I want to do some traveling,” Mr. Callahan said.

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