- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 9, 2008

RICHMOND | Virginia’s largest police organization Monday endorsed the Senate campaign of Mark Warner, a Democrat, saying he steered the state through troubled economic times as governor without jeopardizing public safety.

Mr. Warner is the first Democrat endorsed for the U.S. Senate by the Virginia Fraternal Order of Police since the 9,000-member group began making recommendations in 1985, organizers said. The national FOP has endorsed Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, for president.

Mr. Warner, whose four-year term as governor ended in January 2006, also picked up the endorsement Monday of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, another organization that has mostly backed Republicans.

He is the heavy favorite over James S. Gilmore III, a Republican who preceded Mr. Warner as governor.

“Governor Warner worked with us in a responsible and honest way as he grappled with the revenue shortfalls that Virginia faced when he took office in 2002, and most of us in law enforcement were pleased to join Governor Warner’s 2004 bipartisan coalition to support budget and tax reform to give public safety professionals the resources we needed to effectively do our jobs,” said retired Chesterfield County Police Lt. Thomas E. Stiles, the state FOP’s immediate past president.

Mr. Warner vowed to support a law enforcement community that now has the role of helping provide homeland security.

“It’s easy for elected officials to say they support law enforcement, but it comes down to making sure they have resources,” he said.

Mr. Warner also said he also supports the FOP’s bid for legislation that would allow a form of collective bargaining without the right to go on strike, as well as the proposed Employee Free Choice Act. The latter would, in part, allow employees to form unions by signing cards authorizing union representation.

The Gilmore campaign said it disagrees with Mr. Warner on both issues.

“Mark Warner supports the union check card legislation, which would undermine Virginia’s right to work laws, and he also supports mandated collective bargaining for first responders,” said Ana M. Gamonal, a Gilmore campaign spokeswoman.

She said Mr. Gilmore “would rather lose the endorsement of the FOP than surrender Virginia’s right to work.”

Warner spokesman Kevin Hall said the labor proposals have nothing to do with Virginia’s right to work law, which prohibits compulsory union membership.

The FOP endorsed Mr. Gilmore for attorney general in 1997 but backed his opponent, Democrat Don Beyer, for governor in 2001. They backed Mr. Warner’s opponent, Republican Mark Earley, for governor four years later but ultimately were won over by Mr. Warner’s bipartisan approach and willingness to meet with police to address their concerns, FOP officials said.



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