Retiring Sen. Warner May Vote Democrat in Upcoming Senate Election

October 5, 2008


Retiring Virginia Senator John W. Warner (R-Va.) beat his Democratic opponent, Mark R. Warner, by six percentage points in the Old Dominion’s “Warner vs. Warner” race of 1996.

Now, he might cross party lines and vote for him.

Mark Warner, who went on to become a popular governor, is running to succeed John Warner in the Senate. Mark Warner’s opponent is another former governor, James S. Gilmore III, a Republican who has received little support from the state’s power structure and lags by 26 points in a new poll.

“I’m watching that race, following the positions of the two candidates,” John Warner told reporters on a conference call Saturday. “There have been occasions when I have supported Democratic candidates. … But I’m not there yet.”

The patrician senator said he disagreed with Gilmore’s opposition to the economic rescue package signed by President Bush on Friday. Gilmore said in a debate Friday night that the measure rewards “Wall Street high rollers.”

John Warner said: “So much of our production is related to defense and high tech, and that’s got to have a market place. And this bill is out there to restore the actual credit flow — the credit flow, I repeat that. And that’s like a tourniquet on this economy right now — the absence of credit. And this bill — I’m not [saying] it’s a perfect bill; I think John McCain is dead on on that. But it’s the best we could do under the circumstances to zero in first, right on the credit."

Gilmore said in a statement: “I have great respect for Senator John Warner. He has a long and distinguished record of public service to our state and to our nation. I agree with John Warner on many issues, but on the issue of whether to use taxpayer money to bailout Wall Street, I agree with the bipartisan majority of the Virginia members of the House of Representatives ... who voted against the bailout.”

With Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) pressuring Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in Virginia, John Warner on Saturday headlined a Republican National Committee conference call billed, “Why Barack Obama and Joe Biden Are Wrong for Virginia.”

When a reporter on the call said to Warner, “So it sounds like you’re open to voting for a Democrat in the Senate race, even when you’re supporting Mr. McCain?”

Warner replied: “I told you very carefully: I’m watching that race, following the positions of the two candidates. I just commented: I have differing opinions in what Gilmore expressed on the rescue package. But that did not in any way indicate a lifelong support of Republican candidates in this state. There have been occasions when I have supported Democratic candidates — you know that well. But I’m not there yet.”

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