Former Va. Gov. Warner Set to Seek Senate Seat
Thursday, September 13, 2007
RICHMOND, Sept. 12 -- Former Virginia governor Mark R. Warner will announce today that he is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican John W. Warner, setting the stage for one of the most competitive races in the country next year, according to sources familiar with his decision.
Warner, 52, a self-described moderate Democrat, will make his announcement in an e-mail to supporters Thursday but won't formally begin his campaign until after the state legislative races in November, according to the sources, who spoke directly with Warner.
Democrats in Virginia and nationally have been courting Warner in the hope that his entry in next year's race would help them retain their majority in the Senate. If Warner succeeded, Virginia would have two Democratic senators for the first time since 1970.
Republicans say they will fight hard to keep the Virginia seat, and political observers say more than $30 million could be spent on television and other advertisements as both parties battle in the key race. It will be the first Virginia race for U.S. Senate without an incumbent candidate since 1988.
A Warner victory next year would be demoralizing to Virginia Republicans, who were surprised by James Webb's win in last year's U.S. Senate race and Timothy M. Kaine's election as governor in 2005 over well-known GOP candidates.
Warner could face Rep. Thomas M. Davis III or former governor James S. Gilmore III. Both are likely to seek the Republican nomination, but neither is expected to announce plans until after the Nov. 6 state elections.
Davis declined to comment Wednesday, saying he would make a statement after Warner's announcement is official. Gilmore said that he is interested in the race and that Warner's decision would not affect his: "Sending a Democrat to the United States Senate at this very critical time is not the best policy."
Warner has appeared eager in recent days to run for the Senate. He plans to present himself to voters as a problem solver who would be willing to cross party lines to push bipartisan changes in Washington.
If he won, he would have a national platform to talk about fiscal responsibility, ending the war in Iraq and reshaping the country's energy policy.
Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) said Warner has been doing his homework, meeting with figures such as Lee H. Hamilton, co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group and Sept. 11 commission.
"Mark met the challenge of running a state very well," Moran said. "I think he's anxious to take on some new challenges."
Monica Dixon, a Warner spokeswoman, declined to comment. But the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because Warner had not gone public, said Warner called friends and party activists Wednesday afternoon to inform them of his plans.