- The Washington Times - Monday, August 29, 2005

RICHMOND — Gov. Mark Warner will announce today that he will not challenge Republican U.S. Sen. George Allen’s re-election next year, the state Democratic Party chairman said.

“My impression is he wants to finish his term out on a good note. Being governor of Virginia is a pretty high honor and pretty serious business and, quite frankly, I respect his decision and think he’s got his priorities right,” party Chairman C. Richard Cranwell said.

The decision frees Mr. Warner to explore a possible presidential bid after he finishes his term as governor. By law, Virginia governors cannot serve consecutive terms.

Mr. Warner declined to speak to reporters yesterday afternoon about his plans.

Mr. Cranwell said the governor will discuss his plans publicly for the first time this morning during his monthly appearance on WTOP radio.

The governor this summer formed a federal campaign committee necessary for an exploratory campaign and hired Monica Dixon, a top political adviser to Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign.

His sitting out the Senate race leaves Virginia Democrats struggling to find a candidate with the credentials to challenge the first-term senator, who also is considering a 2008 White House bid.

Two potential challengers to Mr. Allen’s re-election — Falls Church car dealer and former lieutenant governor Donald S. Beyer and former U.S. Rep L.F. Payne — have ruled out the race.

Mr. Warner had a job-approval rating of 74 percent in a statewide survey conducted last month by the independent Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc.

The survey also found that if the Allen-Warner race were being held now, Mr. Warner would have a 5 percentage-point edge over the conservative Mr. Allen, a former governor.

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