Warner Officially Launches Campaign

By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 14, 2007

RICHMOND, Sept. 13 -- With former Virginia governor Mark R. Warner now a candidate for the U.S. Senate next year, Republicans stepped up efforts Thursday to figure out a strategy to defeat the popular Democrat.

Warner, 52, kicked off his campaign Thursday in an online video in which he said he has the experience, record and temperament to reach across party lines and bring bipartisan reforms to Washington.

"Virginians know politics as usual is just not getting the job done, and with your help, we will," Warner said on the video, posted on www.MarkWarner2008.com. "I've decided the way I can get our country back on the right track is to serve in the United States Senate."

Minutes after Warner unveiled his video, the National Republican Senatorial Committee fired back with its own video on a Web site, www. dontmarkwarner.com, that accused Warner of breaking a 2001 campaign promise not to raise taxes. With help from Republicans, Warner pushed through a $1.4 billion tax increase in 2004 to close a budget shortfall.

"Make no mistake about it, Mark Warner is a politician who can't be trusted to keep his promises to voters," said Rebecca Fisher, a spokeswoman for the campaign committee, which helps elect Republican candidates nationwide.

In an interview, Warner called the committee "Washington attack dogs."

"The Washington types can shoot those bombs across Virginia all day long, but I think the people of Virginia know what we did, what we did was right, and I am anxious to talk about that," said Warner, who is also vowing to end the war in Iraq, reshape the nation's energy policies and work to restore America's standing in the world.

The GOP's quick response to Warner's candidacy underscores what will be an aggressive push by the party to hold on to the Senate seat that John W. Warner, who is retiring, has held since 1978.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which helped lure Warner into the race, released a statement Thursday suggesting that the former governor was virtually unbeatable in a statewide race. A Washington Post poll last October found that Warner had a 73 percent approval rating among Virginians.

Despite Warner's popularity, Republicans say they can build a winning campaign in traditionally conservative Virginia by focusing on national security, illegal immigration and taxes.

Warner's announcement Thursday appeared to energize some party leaders, who are still reeling from James Webb's narrow win over incumbent George Allen in last year's Senate race.

"We are not backing down from anybody, at any time, at any place, anywhere," said Wayne Ozmore, a Republican activist from suburban Richmond.

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