RICHMOND, Va. — U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., joined Democrats across West Virginia and Virginia Wednesday in mourning the death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

“I had hoped and prayed that this day would never come,” Byrd said. “My heart and soul weeps at the loss of my best friend in the Senate, my beloved friend, Ted Kennedy.”

Byrd said he and Kennedy joined together in opposing the Iraq war.

“Senator Kennedy and I both witnessed too many wars in our lives, and believed too strongly in the Constitution of the United States to allow us to go blindly into war,” Byrd said. “That is why we stood side by side in the Senate against the war in Iraq.”

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, who also serves as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, issued a statement Wednesday calling Kennedy one of the “greatest and most consequential political figures” in American history.

“I am saddened by the news this morning of the passing of a great and gracious statesman,” Kaine said. “Senator Kennedy was an undeniable force in the halls of Congress and touched countless lives in his five decades of public service. Like his brothers before him, Senator Kennedy unfailingly kept the most vulnerable citizens closest to his heart, and I will greatly miss his compassionate voice and remarkable leadership. On behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia, I extend my condolences to his family and loved ones.”

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