2009 Governor's Race Will Be State's Litmus Test

By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 22, 2007


For those who can't get enough of Virginia elections, time to look ahead to the governor's race in 2009.

Yes, there is a U.S. Senate and presidential election next November.

But with former governor Mark R. Warner (D) an early favorite to win the Senate race, the election for governor will be the contest that will really decide whether Virginia is turning blue or if party gains this decade were largely because of President Bush's unpopularity.

Candidates in both major parties are starting to gear up for the governor's race. And much of the early positioning centers on who is most likely to win a general election, an issue that might dominate both parties' nominating contests in 2009.

For Republicans looking to stage a comeback in the commonwealth, the early jockeying centers on Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and former governor and U.S. senator George F. Allen.

Allen, governor from 1994 to 1998, has been sending strong signals in recent weeks that he might be about to reemerge onto the political stage.

At a news conference last week, Allen was affable and talkative, appearing as if he has put last year's U.S. Senate loss to James Webb (D-Va.) behind him.

Eleven days ago, Allen also penned an op-ed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch in which he talked about his record as governor and the future of the state GOP. Allen didn't say whether he plans to run for governor, but he wrote that Republicans need to "earn the privilege to serve and lead again."

If he runs, Republicans and Democrats say, he would be a formidable candidate and an early favorite to win the nomination.

Allen could tap his solid base of support in the Richmond suburbs, the Shenandoah Valley and southern Virginia. Because of his strength in those regions, Allen came within 9,000 votes of winning reelection, despite his well-publicized gaffes and opposition to his support for the war in Iraq.

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