- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 18, 2009

RICHMOND | Chris Saxman, a fast-rising Republican delegate from Staunton, abruptly announced Friday that he is dropping his re-election bid.

The 43-year-old lawmaker said he had decided duirng the past couple of weeks to devote himself to two nonprofit, bipartisan ventures he will announce shortly.

He is the second incumbent in recent weeks to abandon plans for another term this fall, with continued Republican control of the 100-member House at stake.

Democratic Delegate Kristen Amundson of Fairfax shocked her party last month by abruptly dropping her bid for another term.

In an interview, Mr. Saxman said the General Assembly was taking up too much of the time he needs to run his family’s bottled-water business and would not allow him time to launch his nonprofit groups.

“I wish I’d come to this conclusion back during the [legislative] session,” Mr. Saxman said. With the other opportunities before him, a campaign this fall followed by filing bills and then another legislative session was not compatible, he said.

“Next thing you know, I look up and it’s spring already and eight months of my year are gone,” he said.

Mr. Saxman’s departure caught senior Republican House leaders by surprise.

“It was certainly a surprise,” said House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith, Salem Republican. “It’s sad, too, because I understand it’s difficult to do this as a part-time job but still take care of your business and your family.”

His decision to drop out brings the number of House incumbents not running this fall to 11: six Democrats and five Republicans. Nine are retirements like Mr. Saxman’s; one Democrat lost his primary, and another, Steve Shannon, is running this fall for attorney general.

Mr. Saxman was elected to the seat in 2001, a year that brought unprecedented Republican expansion and gave the party nearly two-thirds of the 100 House seats.

Through June, Mr. Saxman had raised $120,000 for this year’s campaign. He faced a challenge in November from Democrat Eric Curren.

Republican leaders from Mr. Saxman’s 20th District plan to meet over the weekend to select a new nominee for the party-friendly district, which gave nearly 63 percent of its vote last fall to Republican John McCain in the presidential race.

Democrats must win six Republican seats this fall to claim undisputed control of the House for the first time in 12 years.

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