BALTIMORE – Former Sen. Jim Webb said Tuesday he’ll make a decision on a 2016 presidential run in “the next few days."
The Democrat announced an exploratory committee back in November and has traveled to early presidential nominating states since, but he has yet to make up his mind on a run. "We’re probably going to get a whole lot busier over the next week or so,” he told reporters after a speech to the National Sherriff’s Association.
Webb, a former senator from Virginia who championed comprehensive criminal justice reform in Congress, was one of three potential or declared presidential candidates to attend a forum here with law enforcement officers from across the country.
Republicans Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson also spoke. Democrat Martin O’Malley, who was mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland, was on Monday’s schedule, but he did not attend and his campaign said he had never agreed to do so.
Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton made criminal justice reform the first big policy push of her second campaign, and Webb seemed to a take a veiled jab at those who he believes came late to the issue.
“Anybody can stand up here and read a speech about these issues,” he told the sheriffs. “If you’re looking for the kind of leadership that can change the national dialog on this discussion, we’ve shown it, we’ve done it.”
In front of a crowd concerned with unlawful immigration, Webb also distanced himself from President Obama’s executive actions to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.
While he told reporters that he believed Obama’s actions were “legal,” Webb would not commit to continuing them if he were president. “I would look at them,” he said.
In his remarks, Webb said that in general, he’s “not a believer in executive orders” and worries about “the abuse of executive orders.”
Asked about Obama’s immigration policy, Webb noted there are “some other people saying we need to go even further than that” – another apparent reference to Clinton – but said “we’ve got to be very careful about timelines.”
He noted that he proposed an amendment to a 2007 immigration bill that required immigrants seeking legal status to be in the country for five years and prove their connection to their communities.
Webb also reiterated the need for criminal justice reform, especially when it comes to mental health and drug addiction. "I don't think it makes a lot of sense to put someone in jail when they’ve got a disease,” he said of non-violent drug arrestees.
And he called for drastically lowering the number of incarcerated Americans, saying as many of them as possible should be reintegrated into society.
While many in the Democratic Party have moved to the left, the former senator and Ronald Reagan administration appointee has cut a more conservative path to his potential announcement.
“I'm very proud of having worked in the Reagan administration,” he said in concluding his remarks.
Webb also defended his recent statement calling for “mutual respect” around the Confederate flag, with the former Marine saying he merely wanted to honor the solders on both sides of the war. He noted that conservative columnist Charles Krauthamer recently wrote an op-ed agreeing with his position.