Virginia: The Races to Come
The commonwealth hosts elections every year, with state offices up in odd years (2005, 2007, 2009) and federal elections filling in the gaps (2006, 2008). Given this continuous election cycle, it was hardly a surprise that much of the talk at this year's Shad Planking was not about the races on the ballot this November but rather the contests coming up in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
Virginia limits its governors to a single term (the last state in the nation to do so), so the minute Gov. Tim Kaine (D) was elected last November, talk began to circulate about the next race in 2009.
On the Republican side, McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) are seen as two likely combatants, with McDonnell given the early edge by party insiders as he has a strong following among the social conservatives -- a key voting bloc in an intraparty fight.
The name most-mentioned for Democrats is a familiar one -- Mark Warner. The thinking goes that if Warner comes up short in his all-but-certain 2008 presidential bid, he could return home to reclaim the governorship. Warner left office with extremely high public ratings and made little secret of the fact that he loved being governor.
If Warner is either unavailable or unwilling to make the race, there doesn't appear to be an obvious second choice among Democrats. Since all three of the state's top offices will be open in 2009, a handful of Democrats have been mentioned, though it remains unclear who would run for what.
At the top of that list is state Sen. Creigh Deeds, who came within 323 votes of defeating McDonnell last fall in the AG's race. Deeds's strong showing surprised many Democrats, who may be willing to give him a second chance at either the AG position or governor. Deeds clearly remains interested in a future statewide, as indicated by the fact that he was one of the few Democratic politicians to sponsor a beer truck at this year's Shad Planking.
Another intriguing name for Democrats in 2009 is state Rep. Brian Moran -- the brother of U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D). Brian Moran is his party's caucus chairman in the Assembly, and he is aggressively raising money for a statewide bid. Conventional wisdom has Moran in the AG's race, but we hear rumors that a governor's race is also being mulled.
Among the other names mentioned as potential Democratic statewide candidates: 2004 Lt. Gov. nominee Leslie Byrne, state Delegates Ward Armstrong and Steve Shannon, as well as Jim Webb and Harris Miller (both of whom are seeking their party's nomination to challenge Sen. George Allen in the fall).
As for the 2008 Senate race, much depends on John Warner. The five-term senator has not yet announced if he will seek reelection. If he decides to run again -- at age 81 -- he will face minimal opposition. (Virginia political insiders were particularly interested in the departure of Susan Magill, Sen. Warner's longtime chief of staff, at the end of February.) Of course, if Allen is elected president (or vice president) in 2008, it could create another opening and set off a scramble on both sides of the aisle.
Should Warner retire, Rep. Tom Davis (R) would quickly join the race and is already making considerable efforts to expand beyond his northern Virginia base; he was the lone elected official from northern Virginia to make the trek to Shad Planking and did so on a bus filled with Allen supporters. Despite the fact that he faces no serious Democratic challenge this fall, Davis has already raised $1.6 million and ended March with $1.8 million in the bank. He has sprinkled contributions to local party organizations, civic groups and even little leagues around the state over the past months -- all aimed at building up chits in case Warner's Senate seat comes open. (For more on Davis's plans, check out The Hotline's "On Call" blog -- they landed an interview with the ambitious pol.)
Davis, a moderate on social issues, would prefer not to be challenged in the primary, but at least one prominent conservative -- former Gov. Jim Gilmore -- has made clear he would be interested in a Senate opening. Gilmore, who held the governorship from 1997 to 2001, is also mentioned as a potential gubernatorial candidate in 2009. He was nowhere to be found at Shad Planking, however.
Democrats have less good news on the Senate side as most observers believe Mark Warner would be the only candidate with a 50-50 shot of winning the seat. Warner ran for Senate once before -- in 1996 against John Warner. He lost that race 52 percent to 47 percent.
And now for a bit of trivia about Wakefield, Va. As you drive into the town on 460, a sign proclaims it as the home of Maralyn "Mad Dog" Hershey -- a participant in the second season of CBS's "Survivor."
April 21, 2006; 2:18 PM ET
Categories: Governors , Senate
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