Keep up with our political coverage by signing up for our free daily email newsletter and our new weekly political newsletter, West of the Capital.
Sen. Steve Newman, R-Bedford County, announced Wednesday that he would not be seeking re-election this year, ending a career in public service lasting more than three decades. “After 35 years of service I look forward to spending much more time with my wife, children, and a new grandbaby. We have run a good race and it’s time to allow others to serve,” Newman said in a statement.
The decision to retire marks a bittersweet moment for himself and his family, Newman said. “It’s bitter because I’m leaving an institution I love and the individuals in the Senate and on my staff that have worked with me to better serve Central Virginia,” he said. “But it’s a sweet time because I know I will be able to now spend more time with my family, friends, and business.”
With his decision to retire, Newman averted a primary battle against his colleague Sen. Mark Peake, R-Lynchburg, with whom he was drawn into a new Senate District 8 approved by the Virginia Supreme Court in December 2021. The new district covers Lynchburg, Campbell County and most of Bedford County.
The Virginia Public Access Project rates the district as safely Republican – it went 72% for Republican Glenn Youngkin in 2021. The special masters who drew the lines rated it the third most Republican state Senate district they drew.
Peake said in a statement posted to Twitter Wednesday that Newman’s retirement means Central Virginia is “losing one of its strongest voices” in recent decades.
“I first voted for Steve Newman in 1991 after I moved to Lynchburg in 1990. I have supported Steve Newman for every office he has run for and in every campaign. He has been a consummate professional in representing Central Virginia in particular and the commonwealth at large,” Peake said, adding that Newman will be “remembered as one of the most outstanding statesmen our area has ever seen.”
A native of Patrick County, Newman was elected to the Lynchburg City Council in 1988 to represent Ward 3. At 23, he was the youngest ever to be elected to the council. Five years later, he began his tenure in the state legislature, serving two terms in the House of Delegates.
In 1995, Newman was elected to the state Senate, representing what then was Virginia’s 23rd Senate district, which at the time included all of Botetourt and Craig counties, parts of Campbell County, Bedford County, Roanoke County and the city of Lynchburg. From 2016 to 2020, he served as the Senate’s president pro tempore, and in this role presided over the chamber in the absence of the lieutenant governor.
Newman was also selected to serve as chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee and the Senate Education & Health Committee, and he has been a member of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee since 2012, where he’s served as a budget negotiator for many years.
During his 23 years in the Senate, Newman proved himself a consistent conservative who fought the expansion of Medicaid and the decriminalization of marijuana in Virginia. In 2006, he was a sponsor of the Marshall-Newman Amendment, which banned same-sex marriage in the commonwealth until 2014, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the ban.
And during the 2023 legislative session, Newman sponsored legislation seeking to ban most abortions in Virginia after 15 weeks – a proposal that Gov. Glenn Youngkin had asked for after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer. Newman’s proposal was defeated by a Senate committee in January, and access to abortion in Virginia remains unchanged.
Newman on Wednesday highlighted the Transportation Reform Act and the state’s major Education Reform package under former Gov. Bob McDonnell “that gave Virginia’s parents more options in education” among his most important legislative accomplishments.
Others included writing legislation for $1 billion tax relief in 2019, along with Sen. Tommy Norment, R-James City County, and his efforts in guiding many Central Virginians through the “confusing and debilitating government restrictions” during the COVID-19 pandemic, “with a goal of keeping everyone safe while helping businesses stay afloat and enabling families to be connected.”
Despite being an uncompromising conservative, Newman was respected by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and has even formed enduring friendships with some Democrats, in particular with Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, the Senate’s current president pro tempore.
“People might be shocked how much Senator Lucas and I talk and how well we get along,” Newman told Cardinal News in January. “She’s been very honorable in working with me, so I will continue to work with Senator Lucas.”
Newman will serve in the state Senate for the remainder of this term, after which he wants to focus on spending more time with his family. Newman married his childhood sweetheart, Kimberly Norton, in the 1990s, and the couple has two adult sons, Tyler and Wesley.
“The Lord tells us to run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” Newman said, Wednesday. “Kim and I believe we have finished this part of our race and it is our prayer that we one day hear ‘well done good and faithful servants.’”