Sources Say Rep. Davis Won't Run for Senate

By Amy Gardner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 25, 2007

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III will not make a run for the U.S. Senate next year, in part because of what he sees as the Republican Party's increasingly narrow focus on candidates who pass conservative litmus tests on taxes and abortion, several people close to his office said yesterday.

Davis (R-Va.), who has been preparing for a Senate bid for years, won't rule out a future run, such as a challenge to James Webb (D-Va.) in 2012, the sources said. He also will consider running for reelection to his House seat next year.

But to try to replace Sen. John W. Warner (R), who will retire at the end of next year, at a time when Davis considers Democrats to be strong and Republicans in disarray -- particularly in Virginia -- would be counterproductive, they said.

Reached by telephone yesterday, Davis, 58, said he would reveal his intentions at a news conference this morning. He said he plans to talk about the political environment in the nation and the state but offered no details.

"I'm going to have a wide-ranging conversation," Davis said. "[Today] won't be the end of everything."

Still, others close to Davis -- who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak on his behalf -- said the seven-term congressman was deeply disappointed by the Republican State Central Committee's decision this month to choose a convention over a primary to nominate the GOP Senate candidate in the spring. They also said he is angry about how his party selects candidates.

Because conventions tend to draw more conservatives, the decision probably gives an advantage to former governor James S. Gilmore III, who is viewed as more conservative than Davis. But the choice of the convention also met with widespread scorn among moderate Republicans and Democrats, who predicted a Gilmore defeat against Democrat Mark R. Warner, the popular former governor who has declared his plans to run.

"The circular firing squad has assembled," one Davis confidant said. "What does that mean for our electoral chances? We are killing ourselves coming out of the block."

For much of the past week, rumors have swirled that Davis would not pursue a Senate seat, run for his House seat or leave elective politics.

Davis tried to quell some of the chatter this week when he said that he still planned to wait until after the Nov. 6 state and local elections to make a final announcement of his intentions. Even yesterday, Davis held a fundraiser in the morning and said he was still looking at numbers and keeping his options open.

Such apparent inconsistencies reflect the difficulty of the decision and Davis's habit of "thinking out loud," said his wife, state Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis. She is locked in a bruising reelection campaign against Democrat J. Chapman Petersen.

Since John Warner's retirement announcement in late August, Davis has stated unequivocally that he would wait until November to make a decision, in part because he was focused on his wife's campaign. But his disappointment with the convention decision has consumed him in recent days, associates said. Taking a public shot at the Republican Party also might help his wife's chances in a district that has voted overwhelmingly for Democrats in recent statewide elections, they said.

Devolites Davis said yesterday that she still wasn't sure what her husband's decision would be. But after his reelection last year and her campaign this year, she said, the thought of facing another grueling election is wearisome.

"This is two years in a row, a tremendous amount of stress, running for elections," she said. "It's a lot for one family to do. I think part of what we need to do is ask: 'What are we up for next year?' That would make three years in a row."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company