The two biggest candidates in Virginia’s U.S. Senate race both got boosts Monday, as Sen. Mark Warner picked up an across-the-aisle endorsement from his predecessor and Ed Gillespie saw one Republican challenger drop out and another decline to run.
As he bids for a second term, Warner (D) got the public backing of the man he lost to in 1996 and then replaced in 2003— former senator John Warner, a Republican.
“Mark Warner, if I may say with a sense of humility, like John Warner, crosses the aisle and makes things work,” John Warner told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “We come from the old school. The Senate works best when there’s collaborative effort between the two parties.”
John Warner, a moderate, has occasionally bucked his party by refusing to endorse Republicans, but he has not typically backed Democrats. In a statement, Mark Warner praised the ex-senator as “a role model as I’ve worked across party lines to find commonsense solutions” in the Senate.
Gillespie, the former Republican National Committee chairman who is angling to face Warner in November, got good news of his own, as former Pentagon official and lobbyist Howie Lind dropped out of the contest for the GOP nomination. That leaves Gillespie and financial planner Shak Hill in the running for Republicans, though some conservatives remain hopeful another candidate will enter the race.
One of those potential GOP contenders, Del. Ben Cline (Rockbridge), told supporters in a letter Monday that he had decided not to enter the race, saying he preferred to keep fighting for conservative causes in the Virginia General Assembly.
Though Lind has said he raised $300,000 for his campaign in 2013, he cited fundraising as the main explanation for ending his bid.
“To be blunt, the financial resources to continue this campaign for a statewide office are not available since Ed Gillespie has joined the race,” Lind said in a statement. “Hats off to Ed for being able to garner a large amount of funds in the short amount of time since he announced.”
Both Gillespie and Republican Party of Virginia chair Pat Mullins quickly issued statements praising Lind. The GOP is set to pick its nominee at a June convention in Roanoke.