- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 12, 2007

Virginia Rep. Thomas M. Davis III has registered three Web site names for a possible U.S. Senate run next year.

“The campaign had to buy them up just in case,” said Davis campaign manager Brian McNicoll. “Otherwise your enemies could buy them and keep them from you.”

Though Mr. Davis‘ Web sites do not prove he will run in 2008, the move adds to the speculation that Sen. John W. Warner is delaying a retirement announcement to give Mr. Davis, his friend and 11th District Republican, a head start on other party members considering a bid.

James Martin with the Virginia Progressive blog site first posted the Federal Election Commission filing that showed TomDavisforSenate.com, TomDavisforSenate.org and DavisforSenate.org were registered in November with the Alexandria-based Campaign Solutions, which handles Mr. Davis‘ online accounts.

However, Mr. McNicoll made it clear that Mr. Davis wants to succeed Mr. Warner but “would never” run against him.

Mr. Warner’s recent federal filing showing he has raised only $500 through the first quarter has added to the speculation he will retire.

The filing came about a year after the retirement of Susan Magill, who was Mr. Warner’s chief of staff for 18 years.

Mr. Warner has said: “I am seriously considering running again for the Senate and am listening to a wide range of Virginians, from the man and woman on the street to my colleagues in the halls of Congress. I will announce my decision about the Senate race in September.”

Republicans say his resignation would result in a struggle between centrists and conservatives for control of the party.

Some conservatives say they would prefer candidates such as former Gov. James S. Gilmore III, a conservative pursuing a White House bid, or Rep. Eric Cantor, 7th District Republican.

However, some downstate conservatives say Mr. Davis, who has a reputation for working with the other party, would be a better choice because he has a record of winning in Northern Virginia, the voter-rich area that the party has failed to win in recent statewide elections.

“Conservatives or moderate, you have to admit that Tom Davis has been a powerful political force and has been a master at raising necessary funding for across the state,” said Prince William County Board of Supervisor Chairman Corey A. Stewart, at-large Republican. “He has been the godfather of Northern Virginia Republicans.”

While people wait for Mr. Warner’s decision, Mr. Davis has worked to raise his profile in the southern part of the state.

He also has emphasized his ability to win in Northern Virginia.

“I’ve won 11 races here in some of the toughest years against some of the toughest opponents,” he said last week. “I’ve got my record.”

First, the party would have to decide whether they would hold an open primary or a party convention.

A convention would likely favor a conservative candidate, but party members will probably want a candidate to be tested through the primary process.

Democrats are hoping that former Gov. Mark R. Warner will return to politics if John Warner, who is not related, retires.

The former governor told The Times late last month that he is weighing his options and will have a better idea of his future once the senator announces his decision in the fall.

“I think I’ve got a voice that I would like to get back engaged in public service, and whether that is the direction of the U.S. Senate or whether that is the direction of the governorship, I have yet to make a determination,” Mr. Warner told The Times.