By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Former governor Mark R. Warner has long made it clear that he never really wanted to leave the executive mansion.
It turns out he didn't leave.
After seeing power shift to his handpicked successor, Warner slinked away. But when Timothy M. Kaine arrived for his first night in the executive mansion, he found a life-size cutout of Warner standing in his shower, with a note suggesting that Warner would never really leave the office he loved.
The cutout remained in the executive mansion until May 16, when Kaine retaliated with his own bit of gubernatorial humor.
Warner was in town for the formal unveiling of his state portrait, having taken a momentary break from the presidential-hopeful circuit. The oil painting shows a serious Warner, standing with his hands on his hips the way he often did during his four years in power.
There is no evidence in the official portrait of the toothy grin that Virginians -- and, increasingly, the rest of the nation -- have come to know. It was a stern Warner who looked out at a crowd of hundreds at the unveiling at the new Patrick Henry executive office building next to the Capitol.
Kaine got his revenge at a private reception at the mansion afterward.
There, Kaine and his wife, Anne Holton , held their own unveiling. They flipped back a sheet to reveal the cutout of Warner.
But Warner's face was plastered over with the cover of a recent New York Times Magazine, which seemed to magnify Warner's already large front teeth and tinted everything the former governor was wearing purple. (It may be a small consolation to Warner that a recent picture of Al Gore in GQ was even worse.)
Kaine had also wrapped a purple floral tie around the cutout's neck, prompting a red-faced Warner to declare that he hated to take Kaine's favorite tie.
Take it he did, tucking the cutout under his arm for a final departure from the place where his political career took off.
Now, the cutout might be heading to New Hampshire, where Warner seems to be spending all his time lately. (And where he'll be June 3, as the keynote speaker at the New Hampshire Democratic convention.)
Or it might be heading to Las Vegas, where Warner is scheduled to blog into the night at a convention for Democratic Web activists next month.
A two-dimensional Warner is already online, however.
Visitors to his political action committee's Web site are greeted with a talking, floating Warner when they arrive for the first time. Walking along the bottom of the screen, the Warner figure urges visitors to register for e-mail updates.
Those who fail to register but come back to the site get a different Warner, who prods them to sign up.
Warner is also available at the iTunes music store for those on the technological cutting edge (and those with a lot of time on their hands). He has recorded several video podcasts, which can be downloaded to iPods.
As of this week, Warner's podcasts include such topics as "Proven Progressive," "Energy Alternatives" and "Why I'm a Democrat."
To finance the frequent travel and the online presence, Warner needs money. So after the mansion reception, the ex-governor held two closed-door fundraisers at the homes of Richmond area supporters.
Hundreds of the area's bigwigs packed two adjacent homes, where they heard a brief speech by Warner and munched on mini Virginia ham biscuits, shrimp cocktails and cheese puffs, according to a person who attended.
No word on how much the fundraisers took in. But Warner had raised about $5.2 million for his federal PAC by the end of March.
According to federal records, he had given away about $261,000 to candidates across the country -- a good way to curry favor later. But he still has millions on hand.
He'll need that -- and more -- if he wants to defeat the other Democratic hopefuls, especially New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton , who is amassing a war chest even as she cruises to a reelection victory against a weak opponent.