Warner Defeats Gilmore for Virginia's Senate Seat

Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner is Virginia's new U.S. senator, according to NBC News.

The Democratic candidate defeated Republican Jim Gilmore, also a former Virginia governor, to take the seat being vacated by John Warner, a Republican retiring after 30 years.

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Polls before Tuesday showed residents remembered Warner far more fondly than Gilmore, Warner's predecessor in the Executive Mansion.

Virginia appeared headed for a record turnout because of strong interest in the presidential race. Voters interviewed at polls had more to say about the presidential race than the low-key Senate contest. Some said they voted a split ticket.

Warner held as much as a 30-point lead and a strong fundraising advantage going into Tuesday's balloting. The victory gives Democrats control of both Virginia Senate seats for the first time since 1970.

Gilmore swept into office in 1998 on a pledge to eliminate Virginia's car tax. He succeeded in reducing it by 70 percent, but his commitment to tax cuts led to a nasty budget battle with the moderate wing of his own party in his final year.


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When Warner took over in 2002, he blamed Gilmore for leaving the state in a financial mess. Warner eventually pushed through a package of tax increases that he said was necessary in part because of the Gilmore administration's mismanagement.

John Warner, who is not related to Mark Warner, was generally regarded as a moderate and endorsed neither candidate.

At the end of his term as governor, three-fourths of Virginians approved of Mark Warner's performance, the highest mark for any governor in 20 years. Were Virginia not the only state to forbid consecutive terms for its governors, he easily would have won re-election.

Instead, he explored a run for president before abruptly dropping out "to have a life for a little while."

Warner has a personal fortune of about $200 million thanks to shrewd early investments in cellular licenses. But wealth and success did not come easy.

He grew up in Indiana, Illinois and Connecticut as the son of a Nixon Republican who worked in risk management for an insurance company.

After getting a law degree from Harvard, Warner moved to Washington, where he earned as little as $350 per week as a Democratic fundraiser but developed a skill for networking.

In the early 1980s, Warner learned that the government would give away licenses to radio frequencies that could one day link millions of wireless telephones. He assembled investor groups to apply for licenses in return for his 5 percent share.

In the 1990s, Warner launched a bid to unseat Virginia's courtly Republican senior senator, John Warner. He spent $10 million of his own money in a campaign that featured "Mark Not John" bumper stickers, and lost by 6 points.

It was the closest challenge of John Warner's career, and a friendship ensued between the two men.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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