- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2007

Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate yesterday , vowing to be an independent voice that will fight to end the “partisan bickering” on Capitol Hill.

“I’ve decided the way I can contribute most to getting our country back on the right track is to serve in the United States Senate,” Mr. Warner said in a video on his campaign Web site. “I will try to bring the same practical, problem-solving approach we used in Virginia to Washington, because our problems in America are not Democrat versus Republican, liberal versus conservative or left versus right. No, this is about the future, not the past.”

The announcement is welcome news for Democrats. They think Mr. Warner, 52, improves their chances of increasing their one-seat majority in the Senate and is strong enough to survive Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s potential polarizing affect atop the Democratic ticket in 2008.

“Our country is at a crossroads,” Mr. Warner said. “We’re dealing with a mismanaged war, our stature in the world is declining, we have no national competitiveness plan and no thoughtful approach on energy policy that would actually create jobs, make us more secure in the world and that deals with the threat of climate change.”

Following the announcement, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat and chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, called Mr. Warner “a tremendous asset to his state and country.”

While Democrats celebrate Mr. Warner’s return to politics, Republicans continue sorting out whether to pick their nominee through a convention or primary, and fight over who is best-suited to keep Sen. John W. Warner’s seat.

Mark Warner, who said he no longer is considering the vice presidency, gives Democrats a chance to hold both of Virginia’s Senate seats for the first time since 1970.

Meanwhile, two-time Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan squashed rumors yesterday about his possible candidacy, telling The Washington Times a “rumor is all it is.”

That leaves the Republican contest as a likely two-man race between Rep. Thomas M. Davis III and former Gov. James S. Gilmore III. The potential race would also pit the moderates and conservative wings of the party against one another.

Both men are delaying their official announcement on whether they will run until after the November election, when all 140 General Assembly seats are up for grabs.

Mr. Warner, who flirted with presidential bid last fall, is considered an early favorite. A Rasmussen Reports poll released Tuesday shows him leading Mr. Davis and Mr. Gilmore by 20 points or more.

A Virginia Republican reluctantly said “bet the farm” the state would “be swapping one Warner for another.”

Other Republicans said this will be the first time Mr. Warner will be running on a record that includes the $1.38 billion tax package he ushered through the Republican-controlled General Assembly in 2004, after vowing in 2001 not to increase taxes.

“Mark Warner decided today to take on a campaign he’s never run before — a campaign focused on his record,” said Rebecca Fisher, a National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman. “The first question he’ll have to answer is a $1.38 billion question: Why did Mark Warner break his Number One campaign promise to the people of Virginia?”

The committee has also started the Web site DontMarkWarner.com that attacks his “liberal” record and asks: “Can Virginia really afford Mark Warner in Washington?”

Yesterday at his campaign headquarters in Alexandria, Mr. Warner told The Times, “I hope the race is about my record” and suggested Virginias are tired of “the Washington attack machine … shooting salvos over the river.”

“What did [the tax increase] lead to: best managed state in the country, best state in the country to do business, best place to raise a kid in terms of education opportunity, keep the AAA bond rating, low unemployment rate,” he said.

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