News Column

Warner Thanks Virginia By Staying in the Senate

Nov. 22, 2012

Michael Sluss

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner ended speculation about his political plans Tuesday, announcing that he won't try for another term as Virginia's governor in 2013.

Warner, a Democrat, said he will remain in the Senate, where he hopes to play a constructive role in shaping an agreement to reduce the federal deficit and avert the looming "fiscal cliff," and to tackle other major issues.

His decision leaves former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe of McLean as the party's lone announced candidate for governor. Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli will battle for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, which will be decided in a party convention next year.

"I loved being governor, but I have a different job now - and it's here, in the United States Senate," Warner said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. "I hope my value add in Congress is to continue working hard every day to not simply blame the other side, but to actually try to find common ground so we can get stuff done.

"At times, it's been frustrating. But I believe this work is important for Virginia, and for our country, and I intend to see it through."

Few Democrats expected Warner to leave the Senate. The popular former governor campaigned vigorously this fall for fellow Democrat Tim Kaine, who won the state's other Senate seat in the Nov.6 election. Warner, who will become the state's senior senator, said throughout the campaign that he and Kaine would function as an effective team in Washington.

Kaine, who succeeded Warner as governor, said publicly that he wanted Warner to remain in the Senate.

Warner, a wealthy technology investor, was Virginia's 69th governor, serving from 2002 to 2006. He left office with extraordinary approval ratings and was elected to the Senate in a landslide in 2008.

Warner has been a leader in the Senate's "Gang of Six," a group that has worked to craft a comprehensive, bipartisan plan to reduce the federal deficit and future debt. The role gave Warner a national profile. But he also grew frustrated with the languid pace of the Senate and the partisan gridlock in an unpopular Congress.

But Warner was upbeat Tuesday in assessing prospects for a bipartisan deficit solution.

Warner sought advice from figures in both parties about returning to his old job. Since 1851, Virginia's constitution has prohibited governors from serving consecutive terms. The only governor elected to nonconsecutive terms was Mills Godwin, who served as a Democrat from 1966 to 1970, and as a Republican from 1974 to 1978.

"Believe me, being governor was the best job I ever had," Warner said.

Warner had success working with a Republican-controlled General Assembly. He rallied business leaders, educators, health care providers and seniors groups behind a 2004 plan that raised taxes, arguing that the package was needed to stabilize the state's finances and adequately fund essential services. He lined up enough Republican votes to get the proposal through the legislature.

But the General Assembly has a different makeup now. Republicans hold a veto-proof majority in the House of Delegates, and most of the moderate GOP senators who were Warner allies have left the legislature.

McAuliffe, a close friend and political ally of former President Bill Clinton, made an unsuccessful run for governor in 2009. He finished second in a three-way primary that was won by state Sen. Creigh Deeds of Bath County. Deeds lost the general election to Republican Bob McDonnell.

McAuliffe announced to supporters on Nov. 8 that he will run for governor again and has been assembling a campaign staff in recent weeks.

Source: (C) 2012 Roanoke Times & World News

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