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Warner Tried to 'Govern From the Center'

Chichester said Warner achieved victory in the tax battle by having "the patience of Job" and by making prodigious use of his cell phone. He said he also frequently met Warner for late-night drinks at the executive mansion.

"The reality was if he was going to get anything done, he'd have to do it with a Republican legislature," Chichester said.

Gov. Mark R. Warner said his leadership "approach has been . . . to try to find common ground." (File Photo)

The Governor and the Assembly

Rather than wage partisan battles over vetoes, Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) tended to avoid all-or-nothing confrontations with the Republican-controlled legislature.

2005: Assembly sustained his one veto, of a bill that would have encouraged Virginia's government to seek a federal exemption to the ban on offshore drilling for oil and gas. Warner asserted the governor's control over the state office that lobbies Congress.

2004: Assembly rejected Warner's amendments to bills barring recognition of civil unions and same-sex partnerships, setting educational qualifications for parents to teach children at home, establishing murder of a fetus as a felony and setting rules on the introduction of new evidence after a felony conviction.

2003: Assembly upheld veto of a bill that would have repealed Virginia's estate tax but rebuffed amendments to reduce the effects of new abortion restrictions. It also rejected Warner's proposal to reduce the scope of a bill barring illegal immigrants from qualifying for in-state tuition rates at colleges. Warner later vetoed that bill.

2002: Assembly upheld an amendment allowing Northern Virginia's transportation tax referendum, but rejected an amendment that would have imposed a $5 fee on every ton of garbage dumped in landfills. It also upheld the veto of a bill to ban the procedure opponents call "partial birth" abortion.

_____Virginia Government_____
Va. Colleges Seek Financial Flexibility (The Washington Post, Apr 6, 2005)
Warner Amends Bill on Colleges' Autonomy (The Washington Post, Mar 31, 2005)
Warner Signs Immigrant Aid Limits (The Washington Post, Mar 30, 2005)
The Governor's Actions (The Washington Post, Mar 30, 2005)
Full Report

In the House, Warner initially reached out to then-House Speaker S. Vance Wilkins, a Republican who represented Amherst. That backfired when Republicans in Wilkins's caucus said he was too close to Warner. Wilkins later was driven out of office by a sexual harassment scandal.

Warner has continued to occasionally meet and talk privately with Wilkins's successor, William J. Howell (R-Stafford). At a recent speaking engagement, Warner looked down at his cell phone to see Howell's number. He answered it in front of the audience, prompting chuckles.

But those efforts often break down, as they did during the fight over tax increases last year.

"There were some in the House leadership who wanted to work with me and others who wouldn't work with me in any circumstances," Warner said.

Warner's critics and allies alike said the Democrat owes much of his popularity to the Republicans.

Warner's victories "have been a gift" from Republicans, said Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-Fairfax). He added ruefully: "My good Republican friends, primarily in my caucus . . . have resuscitated him."

Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William), one of the most conservative members of the House, said Warner "seduced 17 Republicans into voting for a tax increase. He should get on his knees and pray every night for the Republicans who assisted him."

During Wednesday's session, lawmakers rejected four of the amendments Warner had proposed to 45 bills. But they let stand his only veto, and they approved most of the governor's recommendations to bills on university governance, rural economic development and the state budget.

In the Senate, Republican leaders also fought back an effort by conservatives to oust Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr. (R-Winchester) from their caucus. Potts is running for governor as an independent, challenging the Republican Party's likely nominee, former attorney general Jerry W. Kilgore, and the likely Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, in the Nov. 8 vote.

Staff writer Chris L. Jenkins contributed to this report.

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