- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Former Virginia Governor James S. Gilmore III yesterday became the latest Republican to form an exploratory committee in advance of a potential 2008 White House campaign.

“Today, I filed the papers necessary to explore a candidacy for president because I believe that this nation needs conservative leadership,” Mr. Gilmore said. “Alone among those considering a candidacy for the Republican nomination, I have a record of real leadership as a tax cutter and job creator, as a leader on national security issues and as a national leader in our party.”

Mr. Gilmore served as head of the Republican National Committee and Republican Governors Association.

Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Sam Brownback of Kansas; former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani; and former Govs. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Tommy G. Thompson of Wisconsin are other Republicans who have formed exploratory committees.

“Jim Gilmore is a former governor of a very important state with a strong conservative record,” said Ed Gillespie, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia. Mr. Gillespie said he is neutral on the field of Republican presidential primary candidates.

Mr. Gilmore last year traveled to key primary states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. In August, a group of supporters started a Web site to encourage the former governor to run for the White House.

A former Army counterintelligence agent, Mr. Gilmore served as governor from 1998 to 2002. From 1999 through 2003, he chaired the Gilmore Commission, which Congress created to assess the nation’s ability to respond to a terrorist attack.

The commission released a report one week before the September 11 attacks recommending a Cabinet-level office in the White House to combat domestic terrorism and improve cooperation between federal agencies and local law-enforcement authorities.

Mr. Gilmore is serving as chairman of the National Council on Readiness and Preparedness, a nonprofit organization working to strengthen homeland security efforts.

Skeptics of Mr. Gilmore’s presidential move say he is only increasing his profile in advance of a 2008 Senate campaign or a second run at Virginia’s governorship.

Mr. Gilmore was elected governor of Virginia in 1997 after promising to reduce state property taxes and taxes on motor vehicles. However, a 2001 recession led to a confrontation between Mr. Gilmore and Republicans in the state legislature who wanted to reverse his car-tax cuts.

That showdown helped the campaign of Mark Warner, a Democrat who went on to defeat Mr. Gilmore’s would-be successor Mark L. Earley.

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