Wilder Won't Run for New Term; Was First Black U.S. Governor

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Byline: Tom LoBianco and Gary Emerling, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Richmond Mayor L. Douglas Wilder said yesterday he would not seek re-election, apparently ending a high-profile career most notable for his role as the nation's first elected black governor. Colleagues said he "clearly left his mark" on the state, but his legacy may be dimmed by recent bitter and losing battles with the City Council.

Mr. Wilder, 77, told staffers yesterday morning that he would not run for a second term in the city's nonpartisan mayoral race in November.

"I would like to thank all of those who have supported me - from the business community to our regional colleagues to all of our citizens of every walk of life and stripe - for their continued encouragement and commitment," Mr. Wilder said.

"I've done everything you can do," he said in a brief, televised comment. He declined requests for interviews.

He was the nation's first elected black governor, in 1989, and has stumped hard for Sen. Barack Obama, who appears likely to be the first black presidential candidate picked by either of the nation's two major political parties.

His long work in state politics began in 1969 when he won a seat in the Virginia Senate. Over the next four decades he built a career as one of the most influential politicians in Virginia and nationwide, friends say.

"He is an American original," said Robert D. Holsworth, a close friend and political science professor at Virginia Commonwealth University's L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. "He's never been unwilling to upset either the establishment or the conventional wisdom. There are always some people that say he goes too far."

Mr. Wilder's return to government as mayor of Richmond in 2005 was his "second act," Mr. Holsworth said. His "first act" was a long career in state politics, and his third is likely to be a continued role with the Barack Obama campaign and possibly in an Obama administration, Mr. Holsworth said, adding that a Cabinet seat would be unlikely.

"Doug Wilder is a deeply committed public servant who has broken barriers and opened doors for countless Americans. I congratulate him on his many years of service to Virginia and wish him well in his future endeavors," Mr. Obama said.

Top Virginia politicians from both parties who worked closely with Mr. Wilder praised his career.

"Mayor Wilder has a long and distinguished record of public service, and that should be remembered and honored," said Gordon Hickey, a spokesman for Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine.

"Doug Wilder is a distinguished Virginian who made history," Sen. John Warner, a Republican.

Lawmakers say Mr. Wilder's stern, sometimes brash style helped the state through one of its worst recessions during his time as governor.

"He was tough, if you disagreed with him, you knew right away what his position was," said House Minority Leader Ward B. …