Virginia voters will decide whether to send Democrat Mark Warner back to the U.S. Senate for a third term. Recent polls show a double-digit lead, but his challenger — an Army veteran decorated for valor — hopes he can make the race competitive.
Warner cast a ballot for himself on the first day of early voting last week.
His seniority in the Senate has led to a key position as vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Warner says his background before politics as a tech entrepreneur gives him valuable insight into the challenges ahead.
“I think the COVID has frankly accelerated the move to a digital economy, and we’re going to need somebody who understands the challenge and opportunities in a digital economy,” he said.
His Republican opponent is political newcomer Daniel Gade, a decorated, retired Army lieutenant colonel who lost a leg serving in Iraq. He later worked in George W. Bush’s administration on veterans issues and now is a professor at American University.
He says service is the motivation behind his underdog bid.
“I’ve spent my entire life serving America and serving the idea of America, the Constitution and that’s why my campaign motto is ‘same oath, new mission,’” Gade said.
The men approach coronavirus differently. Gade rarely wears a mask at campaign appearances, while warner masks up.
Gade calls some of the response to COVID, an overreaction.
“The two weeks to flatten the curve expired six months ago, and the curve is actually kind of flat in most places, so it’s time to get our economy back to work,” he said.
Warner says he wants businesses reopened, too — when it’s safe.
“Get the virus under control, follow the science and then we do need to reopen the economy,” he said.
When it comes to the debate over police reform, both men say more training is essential, and neither supports defunding police. But when it comes to regulating police conduct there’s a sharp difference.
“We do need national standards, particularly around training and prohibiting certain things like chokeholds,” Warner said.
“The banning chokeholds thing is actually ridiculous,” Gade said. “It’s a feel good measure, it’s not a real reform and it will put police officers and citizens and accused criminals at greater risk of life.”
Gade believes in a fight between an officer and suspect, chokeholds represent a non-lethal option. Taken away, he says, an officer may have to resort to his weapon and use deadly force.
A debate between Gade and Warner will air on NBC4 and NBCWashington.com Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Sign up for our free NBC Washington newsletters to get the latest local news and weather sent straight to your inbox.