- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2007

Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner will announce today that he is running for the U.S. Senate, a move that Democrats think improves their chances of extending their one-seat majority in the chamber next year.

Mr. Warner, 52, is expected to make the announcement this morning through an e-mail to his supporters and an online video.

Monica Dixon, Mr. Warner’s spokeswoman, declined to comment, but sources close to the former governor confirmed his intentions.

Mr. Warner’s candidacy would elevate the race to national standing and increase the chances for Democrats to control both of Virginia’s Senate seats, just two years after Republicans appeared to have a lock on them.

His path is complicated by the national elections and the possibility of having to run with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, as the party’s presidential nominee. If Mrs. Clinton becomes the 2008 Democratic nominee for president, Republicans say it would motivate their base to turn out in greater numbers on Election Day to defeat her.

Mr. Warner, who briefly flirted with the idea of running for the Democratic presidential nomination, has spent weeks mulling over whether to run for the governor’s mansion in 2009 or pursue the seat currently held by Sen. John W. Warner. Sen. Warner, a Republican and a friend of Mr. Warner’s, announced last week he would retire when his term ended. The men are not related.

“He received a tremendous amount of pressure from a lot of people to pursue both jobs,” a source familiar with Mr. Warner’s decision told The Washington Times. “I think he took his time to make a decision he felt was right.”

After Sen. Warner’s announcement, people close to Mr. Warner said it became apparent he was leaning toward the Senate bid.

Some, including Mr. Warner’s longtime adviser Steve Jarding, openly encouraged him to seek the job. Mr. Warner will likely face Rep. Thomas M. Davis III or former Gov. James S. Gilmore III, both Republicans.

“I think it will be a very competitive race,” Mr. Jarding said. “Virginia has definitely proven it is willing to elect Democrats, but I don’t think any Democrat takes it for granted. … Mark Warner will be a very strong candidate.”

But Republicans say the former governor is a flawed candidate because he has never been challenged on his record, which included a $1.38 billion tax package he pushed through the Republican-controlled General Assembly in 2004.

If Mr. Warner wins, it would be the first time since 1970 that Democrats held both of Virginia’s Senate seats.

“If you look at an electoral map of Virginia with the massive growth in Northern Virginia and the huge Democratic trend, that plays to Mark’s favor,” said Dave “Mudcat” Saunders, a former Warner adviser and top adviser on John Edwards’ presidential campaign.

Mr. Saunders also pointed out that in 2001 Mr. Warner won 51 percent of the rural vote in Virginia — long thought to be a Republican stronghold.

Mr. Warner, who holds a law degree from Harvard University and amassed a personal fortune estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars as a venture capitalist and entrepreneur in the telecommunications and technology sectors, left office with a nearly 80 percent approval rating.

He further bolstered his credentials when he helped his lieutenant governor, Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, win the governor’s race in 2006. Last year, he campaigned with Sen. James H. Webb Jr., a Democrat, crisscrossing the state en route to an upset victory over Sen. George Allen, a Republican.

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