- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 20, 2002

NORFOLK U.S. Sen. John W. Warner officially began his quest for a fifth term with a five-day, 17-city campaign tour, even though he still lacks an opponent.
"If there ever were a time, in my judgment, when the Commonwealth of Virginia needed an experienced, coordinated and working-in-a-bipartisan-way congressional delegation, it is now, given the rather serious shortfalls in our projected budget situation," the Republican said yesterday at his first stop in Norfolk.
"Above all, we need jobs in this state. We've got to hold those that we have, and try to get more jobs," he said.
Mr. Warner turned 75 on Monday, but said he had no thoughts of retiring, joking, "I thought I'd build up my [Social Security] account a little more.
"Don't worry, the 7 million people of Virginia will send me a signal when it's time for me to step down," Mr. Warner told about 100 supporters at the memorial to Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur. The site evoked both Mr. Warner's military background he is a Navy and Marine Corps veteran and the importance of numerous military installations to the region.
Mr. Warner touted his experience, noting that Virginia's congressional delegation lost a lot of experience with the deaths of longtime U.S. Reps. Norman Sisisky and Herbert H. Bateman.
He emphasized his seniority again in Richmond, where he was joined by Republican state lawmakers and other Republican officials on the state Capitol steps. But he added: "No voter should vote for me for what I hopefully have achieved in the past. They should vote for me only for what they believe I can achieve in the future."
Mr. Warner said he would work with the rest of Virginia's congressional delegation to bring Virginia federal defense and highway dollars.
Mr. Warner has no challenger for the Republican nomination, and Democrats have not yet announced a candidate for the race.
"The political reality is that Sen. Warner is a very strong, very entrenched incumbent. He's viewed throughout the state as a very popular politician," said Alan Moore, executive director of the Democratic Party of Virginia.
"We know any Democrat would have a very tough race. Having said that, it's not impossible. That's why you have elections," Mr. Moore said. He declined to name possible Democratic challengers.
Mr. Warner's re-election campaign had $1.6 million in the bank at the end of last year, according to papers filed with the Federal Election Commission. Mr. Warner acknowledged yesterday that he's already been campaigning for more than a year.
A former Navy secretary, Mr. Warner first was selected to the Senate in 1978, winning his seat by a nose. At the time, he was best known as Elizabeth Taylor's seventh husband.
In 1996, he defeated Mark R. Warner, who is now the governor, to retain his seat for a fourth term, even though he had lost some party support when he refused to back the 1994 Senate campaign of Iran-Contra figure and fellow Republican Oliver L. North. The two Warners, who are not related, met privately for about 10 minutes in the governor's office during the senator's stop in Richmond.
John Warner is the ranking minority member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and had been chairman for 2 years until the Democrats gained the majority in the Senate.
"There is no such thing as a shoo-in in politics, but he's awfully close," said University of Virginia political science professor Larry J. Sabato.
"It's going to be very difficult for any Democrat to convince voters in Virginia that they should throw away 24 years of seniority, especially when Warner is in line to become chairman of the Armed Services Committee once again should the Republicans take over," he said.

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