Warner to Reveal Plans Today
Friday, August 31, 2007
Virginia Sen. John W. Warner, one of Washington's most influential voices on defense policy, whose political plans could have a significant impact on the partisan makeup of a narrowly divided Senate, will announce today whether he will seek a sixth term.
Warner, 80, is scheduled to reveal his decision this afternoon at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where he received his law degree in 1953. His retirement would be unwelcome news for his fellow Republicans, who hope to take control of the Senate next year. Democrats hold a 51 to 49 lead.
He had been expected to make an announcement after Labor Day, but aides declined to explain the apparent change of plan or elaborate on his decision.
"The senator has not shared his final decision with me or anyone on his staff," said Carter Cornick, Warner's chief of staff. "The decision resides with him and his wife."
A former Navy secretary and past chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee whose outspoken criticism of President Bush for his conduct of the war in Iraq has made him a central figure in the congressional debate over the conflict, Warner has deflected questions about his future for many months. In an appearance Sunday on "Meet the Press," he sounded torn.
"The Senate requires you to go full-bore, six or seven days a week," Warner said. "Tremendous energy, go to Iraq, jump in and out of helicopters, get on the cargo planes, no sleep. And that's different things we've got to do all around, and I've got to assess, at this age, whether it is fair to Virginia to ask for a contract for another six years."
"That sounds like a lot to ask a man between the ages of 80 and 86," said the show's moderator, Tim Russert.
"That is correct," Warner replied. "I am confident that I can run a good, strong campaign, but then I've got to also say to Virginia, on the eve of my 88th birthday, I'm still going seven days, seven nights with full steam. I might be able to do it. Stand by."
Warner's retirement would radically alter the 2008 political landscape nationally and in Northern Virginia. An open Senate seat would establish Virginia as a battleground in the GOP's fight for the Senate. Democratic Party leaders are promoting former governor Mark R. Warner as a likely candidate. Warner (not related to the senator) lost a 1996 challenge to the incumbent by five percentage points.
On the Republican side, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (Va.) has long coveted Warner's seat and has worked assiduously to position himself for a run. A moderate, Davis would probably have serious competition from conservatives, possibly from former governor James S. Gilmore III.
A Davis candidacy would have a domino effect in Fairfax County. Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D), who has refused to commit to finishing his term if reelected in November, has made no secret of his interest in succeeding Davis in the 11th District, where Democrats are gaining strength. Former representative Leslie Byrne has been mentioned as another possible contender.
Connolly's departure would set off a rush at the local level for the chairman's job, with a number of possible aspirants, including Supervisor and Metro board member T. Dana Kauffman (D-Lee), who is not seeking reelection, and Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Sharon S. Bulova (D-Braddock).