Some editions of this article incorrectly identified former Virginia Gov. Gerald L. Baliles (D) as a Republican.
Va. Sen. John Warner Announces Upcoming Retirement
Sunday, September 2, 2007; 6:04 PM
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Aug. 31 -- John William Warner, who entered the Senate 28 years ago best known for marrying actress Elizabeth Taylor and who grew into an elder statesman and Republican maverick highly regarded for his expertise in defense matters, announced his retirement Friday.
Warner, 80, chose the north steps of the Rotunda at the University of Virginia, where he studied law a half-century ago, to reveal his widely anticipated decision not to seek a sixth term next year.
"So I say that my work and service to Virginia as a senator . . . will conclude upon the 6th of January, 2009, when I finish . . . my career of . . . 30 years in the United States Senate," Warner said. The former Navy secretary and past chairman of the Armed Services Committee said he wrestled with the question, coming to closure only "in the last day or two." He postponed a decision, he said, until completing a trip to Iraq last week. Warner has been a leading GOP critic of the Bush White House's war policy.
The rigors of Senate service as he enters his 80s and the importance of letting the next generation of Senate leaders step up drove his choice, he said.
"I'm going to quietly step aside," he said as his third wife, Jeanne, stood at his side.
Warner's departure triggers a round of political jockeying that will change the political landscape nationally and in Virginia.
It represents more bad news for Republicans, who already face the prospect of defending 22 Senate seats and who seek a net gain of one to control of the chamber, which Democrats hold, 51-49. Democrats, emboldened by Sen. James Webb's victory over incumbent Republican George Allen last year, see Virginia as a prime target of opportunity.
"It's a loss for the Republican Party because it's going to be a tough seat to hold," said Mark J. Rozell, a public policy professor at George Mason University. "What was a solid conservative Republican state is now a two-party state."
Party leaders have been encouraging former governor Mark R. Warner (not related to the senator), who came within five percentage points of defeating Senator Warner in 1996, to make the race. Rep. Robert C. Scott (D), the state's only black congressman, who has strong support within the Democratic base, was also mentioned Friday by political insiders. Republicans known to be interested include Rep. Thomas M. Davis III of Fairfax County and former governor James S. Gilmore III, who said Friday, "We're interested in the race."
Davis and Mark Warner were careful not to upstage the senator, issuing brief statements praising him for his service. "He's more than earned a victory lap," Davis said. "An announcement of my future plans can wait another day."
"Today, it's about John, not Mark," the former governor told reporters on the Alexandria waterfront. "My family and I will talk about it now. We have talked about it already," he said with a smile.
But the state Democratic Party was not so decorous -- within an hour of Warner's conference, it issued a statement slamming Davis for his vote against raising the minimum wage.