Mark R. Warner, the Northern Virginia businessman who wants the Democratic nomination for governor in 2001, has hired a speech writer and is poised to add a political director to his ever-growing staff, associates say.

Steve Jarding, who coordinates Warner's increasingly political staff work, said last week that Greg Weiner was hired Sept. 1 to help Warner refine his "message," with an immediate goal of helping Democrats running for the General Assembly in the Nov. 2 elections.

"We want to beef up to help with races this fall," Jarding said.

Weiner has worked on Capitol Hill for two Democratic stalwarts in the Senate, Lloyd Bentsen, of Texas, and Bob Kerrey, of Nebraska, an old boss of Jarding's.

Jarding added that Warner is on the verge of picking a political director.

For more than a year now, Warner has been crisscrossing the state promoting business and educational partnerships on such issues as high-technology, which could pay dividends in the fall of 2001, when the Virginia governorship is on the line after eight years of Republican occupancy of the Executive Mansion.

Some Democrats are eager for Warner, a state transportation official for more than three years until 1994, to weigh in well before that--like now!--on the raging debate over how best to spend transportation dollars, especially at home in Northern Virginia.

Here, There and Everywhere

Hold a fund-raiser, and he shall come.

Gov. James S. Gilmore III is everywhere these days for GOP incumbents and the party's other contenders for seats in the legislature.

Gilmore had Thomas M. Bolvin, of Franconia, on his fund-raising dance card earlier last week, trying to help the Republican unseat Del. Gladys B. Keating (D-Fairfax).

The Springfield area is not Gilmore's only stop. He was off to Memphis late last week and early this week for a meeting of fellow Southern governors, then up to the Big Apple at midweek for a session of the national Advisory Commission on Electronic Commerce, which he chairs, then down to Philly on Friday for a Republican governors gathering.

No Beating Around the Bushes

Meanwhile, the George Bushes are coming to the Old Dominion to help Gilmore's efforts on behalf of Bolvin and all the others.

Look for the former president in Richmond on Oct. 8--two days after Gilmore turns 50--and his son (and current contender for the White House) six days later in Norfolk and Northern Virginia.

U.S. Senate hopeful George Allen (R), 47, continues to charge a pretty penny for events leading up to his 2000 challenge against two-term Sen. Charles S. Robb (D), 60, another former governor. Tickets ran as high as $2,500 last week for luxury events the baby boomer Republican timed to Bruce Springsteen's gig in the Washington.

With a Little Help for His Friends

Gilmore surely knows how to take care of his friends.

Consider a recent round of appointments that reflect the governor's concern for folks who have been loyal to him, personally and politically.

Karen F. Marcus, of Richmond, wife of Gilmore's chief of staff (and close friend and political guru) M. Boyd Marcus Jr., just became a trustee of the state Museum of Natural History, courtesy of a Gilmore appointment.

Fellow conservatives Michael P. Farris, of Purcellville, president of the Home School Legal Defense Association, and James R. Manship, of Mount Vernon, chairman of the God and Country Foundation, won reappointments to the Board of Visitors of historic Mount Vernon.

Meanwhile, onetime Republican legislative hopeful Ruble A. Hord III, of Richmond, whose primary election loss this year was an acute political embarrassment for his political pal Gilmore, won a seat on the State Council of Higher Education, where Karen Marcus already serves.

VMI's Sharper Image

The VMI Cadets are back!

On the air, that is. Norelco is once again pushing its Advantage electric razor with a third round of television commercials featuring the male students and historic grounds of the landmark in Lexington.

The ads first ran last fall, then again this spring, and now they're back, with shots of the Virginia Military Institute parade ground, the notorious mud pit and the obstacle course in the Rat Challenge area.

"That's national publicity you can't buy," said Col. Mike Strickler, VMI's chief spokesman.

The ad's four real-life cadets and one Marine Corps instructor get residuals when the spot airs. And VMI won a $12,500 site location fee for being chosen for the filming last summer, Strickler said.