Warner Frequently Out of Virginia

By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 22, 2005

RICHMOND -- Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) has stepped up his travel schedule since the end of his last legislative session in April, leaving the state to conduct trade missions, political networking and personal trips in the United States, Europe and Asia.

Warner left for New York on April 7, the day after lawmakers ended the 2005 General Assembly session. Since then, he has been to India, Japan and Germany and is scheduled to return from a week-long trip to Silicon Valley in California and Yellowstone National Park.

This week, he will travel to South Carolina to give a speech to the state's Democratic senators. Next week, he is scheduled to be in Chicago overnight in his role as chairman of the National Governors Association.

As his term nears its end, Warner has pledged repeatedly before reporters that his focus on the state's business is "laserlike" until the end of his term in January. The state constitution bars him from running for reelection.

"Listen," Warner told the host of MSNBC's "Hardball," Chris Matthews, in March. "All I know is I got one year left to be governor of Virginia. People hired me for four years. If I want to try to do something else in politics after I'm done being governor, the best thing I can do is not mess up this last year. That means staying focused on the job I'm doing."

Warner aides said his travel is part of fulfilling that pledge.

His two weeks in Japan and India, for example, were part of an economic development trip with dozens of business executives. That trip had originally been scheduled for several years ago, but Warner postponed it because of severe state budget woes.

Aides said Warner had more than a dozen meetings with Japanese business executives and dinner with members of the Indian Parliament and courted companies looking to move jobs and investment to the United States.

At the end of the trip, Warner announced that a Japanese company would invest $36 million to expand its facility in Botetourt County, in the southwestern part of the state.

"After three years of natural disasters and budget troubles, Governor Warner now has this chance to get back to why he ran for office in the first place," spokesman Kevin Hall said. "To serve as Virginia's top economic development officer around the country and, in fact, around the world."

Some political observers said maintaining focus is getting harder for Warner as he attempts to balance his remaining duties in Virginia, his role as chairman of the governor's group and the possibility of a presidential bid in 2008.

"It's all tied into his feeling out the possibility of running for president," said state Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-Fairfax), a frequent critic. "I think Virginia would be better off if Mark Warner spent more time outside of Virginia," he said jokingly.

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