John Warner endorses Mark Warner
John Warner (left) and Mark Warner are pictured.
The incumbent has courted his predecessor, meeting with him most recently a week ago.
By JAMES HOHMANN | 1/27/14 12:57 PM EST Updated: 1/27/14 5:27 PM EST
Retired Republican Sen. John Warner endorsed his Democratic successor and onetime rival Mark Warner on Monday in his race against Ed Gillespie.
The 86-year-old told POLITICO that the state benefits from the seniority in the Senate that the 59-year-old Warner (the two are not related) is accumulating. The former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee also praised the younger Warner – with whom he has developed a friendship since the two squared off in a race nearly two decades ago – for effectively advocating on behalf of the state’s large military presence.
John Warner had nothing negative to say about Gillespie, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee and senior adviser to George W. Bush.
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“I’ve known him through the years. I haven’t talked to him. I just don’t know him anywhere near as well as I know Mark, nor have I had the close association,” he said. “I think he’s very well qualified in his own chosen expertise. He’s worked with legislative bodies, but he’s never served in one. But he’s a fine, reputable strong candidate.”
When Mark Warner challenged John Warner in 1996, his bumper stickers said “Mark, not John.” The younger Warner was a heavy underdog who had previously managed Doug Wilder’s campaign for governor in 1989 and been chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia. He is now the richest member of the Senate, after making a fortune as co-founder of Nextel.
John Warner was the heavy favorite, but he squeaked by that year with only 52 percent. The race was relatively civil, and the two became closer in the years that followed. Mark Warner won the governorship in 2001, where he developed a strong working relationship with the senator. He considered running for president in 2008 but opted to seek John Warner’s seat after the senator decided to retire.
The incumbent has courted his predecessor, meeting with him most recently about a week ago.
“I visited with him at his request a couple times last fall,” said John Warner. “I strongly urged him at that time to continue on in the office. I feel he’s very well qualified, that he’s done quite well and that he’s accumulated by November a decade of experience serving the state, doing constituent work and learning about the legislative process.”
The endorsement was first reported by the Associated Press.
John Warner, who developed a reputation as a Republican maverick who is willing to work with Democrats, told POLITICO that Mark Warner “has shown a very courageous ability to cross the aisle and try to work in a bipartisan way on major pieces of legislation.”
First elected in 1978, John Warner served 30 years in the upper chamber — with stints as chairman of the powerful Armed Services committee. He lamented the heavy turnover in the other Senate seat. During his three decades, five different men held it (Harry Byrd, Paul Trible, Chuck Robb, George Allen and Jim Webb.) Democrat Tim Kaine won the seat in 2012.
“It’s wise for a state, when you have someone who is doing the job well, to give him a chance to build that seniority and have a voice for the state in the Senate,” said John Warner. “The one thing that’s always going to be a part of Senate life is seniority … It’s always, I repeat always, there. Mark is on his way to achieve that seniority.”