Va.'s Gilmore To Explore Bid For President

By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Former Virginia governor James S. Gilmore III has decided to form a committee to examine running for president in 2008, casting himself as a fiscal conservative with executive experience and national security credentials.

In an interview yesterday, Gilmore said his candidacy would fill a void among Republican presidential hopefuls, who he believes are not dedicated enough to important conservative principles.

"It is my intention to run" for the presidency, he said. "There is no committed conservative in this race who can put together a national campaign. I can do that."

Gilmore, 57, said he plans to form an official exploratory committee next month and will make a "swift decision" about a full campaign in the weeks after.

"I don't have to evolve at all. My record is clear," he said. "I think it represents not just a segment of the Republican Party, but of the entire country."

Gilmore won the Virginia governorship in 1997 after achieving a reputation for law-and-order toughness as the state's attorney general and by promising to end the state's hated annual tax on cars. During his one term, he waged a bitter fight to save his tax cuts despite worsening economic times. Virginia governors are barred from serving consecutive terms.

His never-give-up style attracted the attention of President Bush, who made him chairman of the Republican National Committee for a year in January 2001. Before the Sept. 11 attacks, Gilmore chaired a national commission on terrorism, warning that the nation was not ready for attacks.

But Gilmore's tenure in the RNC was rocky as he feuded with some of Bush's top advisers. And Democrats and some Republicans blamed his tax cut fervor for the state's financial difficulties in the years after he left office.

Former Virginia governor Mark R. Warner (D) spent a year courting a national audience but decided against a 2008 presidential run several months ago. Sen. George Allen (R), another former Virginia governor, had been planning a White House bid before his razor-thin reelection loss last month.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company