Sen. Mark R. Warner said Tuesday he will not run for governor of Virginia next year, ending speculation that picked up steam earlier this month when the popular politician said he was thinking about seeking his former job again.
Mr. Warner, a Democrat, said in a statement that he had given “serious, heartfelt consideration” to running again for governor, a post he held from 2002 to 2006. But in the end, he decided to keep his seat in the Senate.
“At times, it’s been frustrating,” he said. “But I believe this work is important for Virginia, and for our country, and I intend to see it through.”
Mr. Warner, 57, earlier this month fueled rumors that had been festering for months about his interest in a gubernatorial run, when he said earlier this month that he would decide by Thanksgiving whether to mount a campaign. Virginia governors are not allowed to seek re-election, but are allowed to serve nonconsecutive terms.
Had he announced for governor, Mr. Warner instantly would have been the front-runner in the race, having left office with an approval rating near 80 percent and solid popularity figures in his time in the Senate.
Terry McAuliffe, a former Democratic National Committee chairman and fundraiser for President Clinton, has been prepping for a run almost since the time he lost the race for the Democratic nomination in 2009, but indicated he wanted to see what Mr. Warner would do before making a final decision. About two weeks ago, Mr. McAuliffe sent a letter to supporters announcing that he planned to run — a move that many analysts interpreted to mean his campaign had been informed Mr. Warner was likely not to run.
Republicans Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the state’s attorney general, and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling will battle for the GOP nomination.
Earlier this month, Democrat-leaning polling firm Public Policy Polling issued a survey that said Mr. Warner had a 50 percent approval rating compared to a 27 percent who disapprove of his job in office. Fifty-four percent of respondents said they would vote for Mr. Warner in a hypothetical matchup against an unnamed Republican. Just 36 percent said they would favor the opponent.
Mr. Warner in his announcement cited ongoing challenges in the Senate, including the looming “fiscal cliff.” He was a member of the bipartisan “Gang of Six” that has labored toward finding a so-called “grand bargain” on a deal to fix the country’s debt problem — work he says he plans to continue.
“It’s what I’ve been trying to do through my bipartisan work to fix our debt and deficits. And you know, I’m actually more optimistic by the day that we’ll be able to get it done,” he said.
He said the issues require tough choices and that he hopes 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.”
“I loved being governor, but I have a different job now — and it’s here, in the United States Senate,” Mr. Warner said.