Ed Gillespie considering Virginia Senate run

December 8, 2013

Former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie says he is considering challenging Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) in 2014.

Meet Ed Gillespie. He says he's considering running for Senate in Virginia in 2014. Could he reverse a string of GOP losses in the commonwealth? (The Washington Post)

Republicans have yet to land a top-flight recruit against the popular Warner. But Gillespie, in an e-mail to The Washington Post, noted that it could be pivotal when it comes to trying to return the Senate to GOP control.

"I’m going to take some time to talk with fellow Virginia Republicans about how we best win this pivotal Senate seat and, of course, with my own family, who come ahead of politics," he said.

Gillespie's flirtation with a Senate bid was first reported by Politico.

Gillespie said that, for now, the state party's focus should be on the looming recount in the razor-thin 2013 state attorney general's race. But the fields are largely set in the most competitive Senate races, and most major candidates tend to get in before the new year.

The filing deadline is Feb. 1.

Warner, despite coming from a swing state, doesn't rank among the GOP's top targets in 2014. Part of that is because Republicans are pursuing seven states that went for Mitt Romney in last year's presidential election, and part of it is because Warner is a very popular former governor with a moderate reputation.

A Quinnipiac University poll conducted in August showed Warner had a 61 percent approval rating, with just 25 percent of Virginians disapproving of him.

But Gillespie, 52, said Warner's record isn't as centrist as most people think.

"They thought he’d be an independent voice, but he’s voted with President Obama 97 percent of the time since he got elected with him in 2008," Gillespie said. "They thought he’d be fiscally responsible, but he voted for a trillion dollar stimulus bill that borrowed from future generations to waste on pork barrel spending.  And he promised he’d never vote for a bill that would mean people losing the insurance they like if they wanted to keep it, then cast the deciding vote in favor of Obamacare."

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, who lost the state's 2013 governor's race last month, said over the weekend that he wouldn't challenge Warner in 2014. Other potential candidates include state Sen. Jeff McWaters.

If Gillespie were to win the seat, both of Virginia's senators would be former national party chairmen (Gillespie and former Democratic National Committee chairman Timothy M. Kaine), as well as  its governor-elect, Terry McAuliffe, a former DNC chairman who will assume office in the coming weeks.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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