Gilmore Announces Bid for U.S. Senate

Two Former Governors Could Face Off

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 20, 2007; Page B01

RICHMOND, Nov. 19 -- Former governor James S. Gilmore III announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate on Monday, setting up a likely contest between the state's two most recent governors, who differ sharply in leadership style and on issues.

For a traditionally conservative state that has favored Democrats since Gilmore left office, a matchup with former governor Mark R. Warner would provide a definitive choice for voters: Do they prefer a social conservative who cut taxes but left a deficit, or a centrist businessman who balanced the budget but raised taxes?

Gilmore, a conservative Republican who served from 1998 until 2002, and Warner, the pro-business Democrat who replaced him, clash on such topics as taxes, transportation, national security and immigration.

Gilmore, 58, had been widely expected to enter the race to replace retiring Sen. John W. Warner (R). On Monday, he did so formally, e-mailing a video to 5,000 supporters and posting it on the YouTube video-sharing Web site. He also mailed 70,000 letters.

"I'm running for the United States Senate from Virginia because I want to be one of those leaders who call on the spirit that is common in all of us and use it to restore our country for the benefit of our people and in the eyes of the world," Gilmore said in the video.

Both Gilmore and Mark Warner, 52, who announced his candidacy in September, still might face opponents in the race for their parties' nominations next year.

On Monday, at least one other Republican -- Del. Christopher B. Saxman of Staunton, who is considered a rising star in his party -- said he is considering challenging Gilmore.

"From what I've been hearing, people are interested in change," said Saxman, 42, who has been in the House of Delegates since 2002. "They want new leadership and new blood. I just think people want to break out of the direction the party has been going in and make changes."

In the past week, Saxman has met with several members of Congress, White House officials and members of the national Republican Party to discuss entering the race. He said he would decide in the next few weeks. But although some Republicans say they would prefer a more moderate candidate, others say no one else stands a chance against Gilmore.

"Governor Gilmore is going to be the nominee," Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) said. "He has widespread support and will be a good contrast to Mark Warner."

Gilmore, who led a federal commission on homeland security and was governor during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, stressed his experience in national security and foreign affairs, his commitment to education and his desire to fight illegal immigration. Warner has vowed to end the war in Iraq, reshape the nation's energy policies and work to restore America's standing in the world.

"To me, it's a complete contrast race," said Mike Wade, a Republican activist and chairman of the Third District Republican Committee in Hampton. "It's the best contrast race Virginians have seen in a long time."

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