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Va. Senate: Davis Expected to Opt Out of Race

Several informed Republicans with ties to Virginia politics told The Fix earlier today that Rep. Tom Davis could announce as soon as this week that he will not run for the Senate seat being vacated by John Warner (R) in 2008.

When Sen. Warner announced just before Labor Day that he would leave the Senate at the end of his term, Davis was widely expected to enter the race. But the congressman has been hinting for the better part of a week that he has changed his mind.

The Virginia Republican Party's recent decision to select its Senate nominee via a convention instead of a primary election would be a major factor in a Davis decision to take a pass on the race. The convention will likely be dominated by the more conservative members of the party, making it harder for the more moderate Davis to win the nomination.

In the time since the news of Davis's decision was posted here around 8 p.m. ET Monday evening, Davis spoke with Washington Post reporter Amy Gardner, saying that while he plans to talk to the media on Thursday about his political future, he has not made a final decision about the race.

The sources who spoke with The Fix about Davis's decision refused to be quoted on the record because they were not authorized to talk to the media on Davis's behalf. They said Davis has decided not to run.

One potential factor that could delay a definitive announcement from Davis is that his wife, Jeanmarie Devolites Davis, is caught up in a very tough reelection race for her state Senate seat. The Virginia legislative elections are set for Nov. 6, and Davis may not want an announcement from him to overshadow her campaign.

If he does opt against the Senate race, it's not clear whether Davis would seek reelection to his House seat. If he retires, the race to replace him would be a major Democratic opportunity next year. Davis's 11th District covers much of Washington, D.C.'s outer suburbs in Virginia, which have been trending more and more Democratic in the past several election cycles.

The other Republican expected to run for the Senate seat is former Gov. Jim Gilmore, who pulled out of his longshot bid for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination earlier this year.

Whoever the eventual GOP nominee is, he or she starts the campaign as an underdog against former Gov. Mark Warner, the popular Democrat who is no relation to the current senator.

By Chris Cillizza  |  October 22, 2007; 10:00 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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I should have stated that the Chap story could conceivably be a campaign falsity but I have not seen anything to discount it.

Posted by: dave | October 23, 2007 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Math lesson time. Davis defeated Hurst 55% to 44% which, the difference of which is 11% (like I said). And why you think that the only people that vote republican are the affluent is beyond me. And while there may be a lot of Chap signs, here is what you need to know about him. The following is an excerpt from a GMU student at a memorial service to commemorate the lives that were taken during the tragedy at Virginia Tech: "As citizens began to gather for the event, I was one among many who was approached by Mr. Peterson. What I thought was going to be a nice gesture of community support on the part of Mr. Peterson, quickly gave me a feeling of disgust and mistrust for this individual. He politely introduced himself, then mentioned he was running as a Commonwealth Senate candidate and then preceded to hand me his business card. Then he moved on as I watched him approach two other individuals in the same manner before he became lost in the crowd."

"Once upon a time, when the GOP stood for a good business climate, low taxes and a strong national defense and otherwise left people alone, I was a Republican." TMOPIA (Warner) is your answer for these beliefs? He gave Virginians the biggest tax increase in the history of the old dominion. And the Dems are known for their strong national defense positions.

Posted by: dave | October 23, 2007 6:11 PM | Report abuse

It really doesn't matter who the GOP runs for John Warner's seat - Mark Warner will take it in a landslide, and with the GOP deciding to select their candidate by convention, it will be a bigger landslide because who knows what right-winger they're going to trot out. Once upon a time, when the GOP stood for a good business climate, low taxes and a strong national defense and otherwise left people alone, I was a Republican. But then the right wingers got in and the party got more and more awful, so I left. VA ending up with a Democratic governor and two Democratic senators might just send the message that the GOP needs to bring back the Nelson Rockefellers, Gerald Fords and William Welds.

Posted by: ksu499 | October 23, 2007 1:09 PM | Report abuse

It wouldn't surprise me to see Tom retire and go into lobbying/consulting full-time. Agree or disagree with him on the issues, he's as astute an observer of the political scene as anyone on the Hill. He knows the 11th district, he knows it's becoming bluer every cycle, and he knows he's going to get a serious opponent in '08. And now he knows he'll never get a promotion.

Posted by: novamatt | October 23, 2007 12:11 PM | Report abuse

JD, Dave, etc, seem to have some memory issues. I guess they can't remember that Davis barely eaked out 54% against an opponent who did maybe one TV spot on the last week of the campaign, and maybe three direct mail pieces. The guy is in trouble.

Check out all the Chap Petersen signs on the lawns in Vienna south of 123 (and even some in the north, where the affluence should make this safe Davis territory). Guess what--that one huge Devolites Davis sign on Park Street isn't going to outweigh the 20 Petersen signs around the corner. You think those folks voting against Devolites Davis in 2007 are going to be voting for her husband in 2008? Can I have some of what you're smoking?

That's right--Davis has been representing the JDs and Daves (and himself) of the district real well for years. But the demographics of the district are changing, and he'll soon be consigned into the dustbin.

Posted by: elroy1 | October 23, 2007 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Davis, in my opinion, opted out of running the day the Republicans choose a convention vs. a primary. They tried this garbage with John Warner many times, and being the incumbent, J. Warner always opted for a Republican primary. He always won the primary and the election, because he wasn't afraid to let the people choose. This time, though, in an open seat the conservative R's choose the process and they choose a convention. This was a horrible mistake that has chased away Republican's best shot to keep J. Warner's senate seat. In a primary, J. Warner would likely endorse Tom Davis for the primary and in the general, as well as lending him support from his own political machine. Now that a convention has taken place, I'm not even certain that J. Warner will endorse the Republican nominee if it's Gilmore. Anyone from Va., what type of relationship does J. Warner/Gilmore have? I know both Warner's have a fairly good relationship. Anyone from Va. have a take on this?

As for the convention, perhaps George Felix Allen could return and compete vs. Gilmore. That would be a nasty fight.

Also, the governor's race in 2009, will it be determined by convention or primary for the nominations? Lt. gov. Bolling would likely be tough to beat in either, although a primary makes it possible for the st. atty. general.

Posted by: bryant_flier2006 | October 23, 2007 11:34 AM | Report abuse

That's the fighting spirit, Tom. Stay out of the race & keep comfy cozy in your House seat!

Posted by: cel1ery | October 23, 2007 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Gilmore versus Warner would be the ideal matchup because it will be a referendum on how this state was run when each was Governor. And since Gilmore left a budget disaster and it was Warner who cleaned it up, I say go ahead Mr. Gilmore, make our day!

Posted by: nysteveo2 | October 23, 2007 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Any chance of Davis running for Governor once Kaine's term ends?

Posted by: mjames2 | October 23, 2007 10:39 AM | Report abuse

My understanding is that Webb and Kaine both won Davis's district by pretty substantial margins and that it was essentially 50/50 in the last presidential election. If that's the case, Davis probably is a bit more conservative that his district. That being said, I suspect he will hold it at least through redistricting in 2010 if he wants to.

The question, which I don't know the answer to, is whether he'd rather run for the Senate in 2012 as a sitting Congressman or from the private sector. That's five years from now and it's not particularly fun to be in the minority in the House when you could be making big money on K street without really injuring your political resume.

Posted by: _Colin | October 23, 2007 10:29 AM | Report abuse

He won by 11% last time which I believe was his closest race. That said, he typically has outspent everybody by a huge margin. Given the current tide against R's and the trending of the area, I would expect a closer race if the Dems put up a credible candidate. But if the Dems are looking for easy hanging fruit, I don't think this is it.

Posted by: dave | October 23, 2007 10:27 AM | Report abuse

A few weeks ago, several of us were predicting Davis would not give up a pretty safe seat in the House to make the run against Mark, who should win by around a 10% margin. Seems to be a wise choice.

Posted by: lylepink | October 23, 2007 9:34 AM | Report abuse


1. This district is becoming bluer every day

2. Since we are so close to DC the president's approval ratings are even more of an albatross

3. He only got around 55% of the vote after outspending a political neophyte nearly 10 to 1.

With that being said. Davis shows up to countless meetings and events all across the district.

The bottom line there are Way too many unknowns as this time. They include what effect the presidential nominees will have on turnout, and who the Ds will put up (Will Connolly or Byrne still run, who will be the D nominee.)

Posted by: novamiddleman | October 23, 2007 9:21 AM | Report abuse

From very far away, Davis looks like a Congressman who represents his district well.
That should make him a shoo-in. Dave? JD? LV? Is his seat as safe as I would assume?

Posted by: mark_in_austin | October 23, 2007 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Truth be told, I would rather have Davis as my Rep than Moran. Moran needs to go as his ideas and ideals are getting long in the tooth. It's time for new blood for District 8

Posted by: Krazijoe | October 23, 2007 8:55 AM | Report abuse

"Did you ever think you would see the day when VA had a dem governor and 2 dem senators?" From 1889 - 1970.

Posted by: dave | October 23, 2007 8:40 AM | Report abuse

You must be new to Annandale. How a Republican in an increasingly Democratic area that has managed to remain a member of Congress since 1995 can be called irrelevant is beyond me. He is very in touch with his constituents. Davis voted with the Dems on the Troop Surge. He listened to the people and changed his position on the Tysons Metro plan as well as immigration reform. He was instrumetal in getting Federal funding for the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge. He has been leading the fight to get the citizens of DC voting rights. You are correct that Virginia is likely to send The Most Overrated Politician in America (TMOPIA) - Warner - to DC as a Senator. But it was TMOPIA that failed to live up to his campaign pledge to kill off the car tax.

Posted by: dave | October 23, 2007 8:34 AM | Report abuse

'Living in DC, I have to say, the commercials that his wife, Devolites Davis, is running are some of the worst fear-mongering ads I've ever seen in a campaign.'

This will be everything in the coming campaigns -- 100% fearmngering, ratcheting it up every day. It's all they've got and they intend to go all the way, no holds barred, screaming terror, terror, terror. Got links?

Posted by: drindl | October 23, 2007 8:31 AM | Report abuse

Living in DC, I have to say, the commercials that his wife, Devolites Davis, is running are some of the worst fear-mongering ads I've ever seen in a campaign. She must be in real trouble to think these ads are okay. It's surprising that the Post hasn't taken a closer look at them.

When it comes to Davis himself, this is probably the best move for him.

Hey Chris, if you were really reporting on this, how come there's no mention of the leading Democrat that was to run - Fairfax chairment Gerry Connelly? Don't you think that part of this story would be whether he would still intend to run or not?

Posted by: scorbett1976 | October 23, 2007 8:18 AM | Report abuse

Davis is an irrelevant hack. He is out of touch with his district on major issues such as Iraq, immigration reform, and transportation. The guy set the usual Republican standard for "family values" and "morality" by mooching off his first wife for years, while he was in low-paying political jobs, and then dumping her for Devolites. The guy hasn't done anything important in Congress (unless you count serving as chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee) and he's not going to start now. The Democrats have a good chance to take his House seat next year and Virginia voters are quite likely to send Mark Warner to the Senate over Gilmore, Mr. "I promised to end the car tax but then it turned out I was just another Republican liar." We made a good start by defeating that phony cowboy George Allen. On the next election day, we have a chance to dump the rest of this state's trash.

Posted by: Bob22003 | October 22, 2007 10:59 PM | Report abuse

I can't wait for Gilmore to get smoked. Did you ever think you would see the day when VA had a dem governor and 2 dem senators?

I bet Gilmore loses 65-35 in Nova.

He will always be the Governor that douped the electorate into voting for that awful car tax repeal. And Warner will always be the Governor who cleaned up Gilmore's mess.

The poor VA Gop. Gonna get worked again.

Posted by: Tom.Wharton | October 22, 2007 10:50 PM | Report abuse

efischman, I don't know if you're in Davis' district, but I am. You say he's out of touch with his district? You're kidding right?

Where do you live? What's your evidence to say he's out of touch?

Answer me, worm! (sorry, I was channeling Rufus there for a second)

Posted by: JD | October 22, 2007 10:14 PM | Report abuse

Davis isn't running against Mark Warner because he knows he'll lose, plain and simple. Let the repukes nominate another of their ultra-conservative Bush-kissing fools and we'll send him home packing as well. As for Gilmore, he's a slimebag who will never beat a decent human being like Mark Warner - in any state. I agree we should bounce Davis from the Congress NOW.

Posted by: capone1 | October 22, 2007 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Davis knows his wife is a goner for the State Senate, due to her acting at his behest in ramming through the dreadful HB 3202 transportation boondoggle. Gilmore starts from behind, but our toothy former governor has never been attacked on the issues, and he is not going to get away with wearing camouflage in Southwest Va. this time, because Gilmore is not the starry eyed dreamer Mark Earley was.

It will be a most interesting race, which will be run on taxes, spending, terrorism, moral issues etc. Hillary ain't gonna help Mr. Cell Phone Licenses here, and the people who now run the RPV (Howell, Hager, Stosch, Eric Cantor, Davis) won't be bungling, because they will be pushed to the sideline. Those boobs (most of whom are out in the state) took Davis's PAC money in exchange for voting for him in the convention last week, but the Fairfax committee members voted AGAINST Davis, because he has ruined the party in No. Va. by buying everyone's compliance with his centrism. Once the RPV abandoned the tax issue back in the 2001 legislative dispute, they abandoned key votes in No. Va.

Posted by: graydm2 | October 22, 2007 9:32 PM | Report abuse

In contradiction to the comments that I am reading about this being good for Republicans, the VA Reps decision to use a method whereby they nominate a more conservative candidate in a growingly purple state seems to be a miscalculation. M. Warner will eat up a conservative Republican, in fact Virginia will have two Dem. Senators unless the Reps. find a serious moderate challenger. Cillizza would be in the know, but as far as the money goes; Warner has big bucks privately, the DNC has a bunch of money, this is a Senate seat that the Dems could easily pick up, they are smelling blood. It'll be hard to beat M Warner.

Posted by: 21redsk1nfan | October 22, 2007 8:58 PM | Report abuse

Davis is thinking he won't get caught up in a Dem landslide if he stays with his Congressional seat. I say toss him from the House with the rest of the enabler Republican garbage.

Posted by: smokinmike | October 22, 2007 8:43 PM | Report abuse

This is a seat that the Dems could have taken with a little more effort last time. Davis had at least one scandal that was reported in this paper -- and the Tyson's tunnel mess should've been more of a political issue. Davis IS out-of-step with his district, and so this ought to be targeted. THere may be 2 good candidates. Andy Hurst is getting leaner and might be a more attractive candidate the second time around. He will also start now with name recognition. The other possibility, Leslie Byrne, is a candidate with even better name-recognition, and is well-liked. I think either could be a strong challenger for Davis. He's not used to having a fight, but the next time he might have one.

Posted by: efischman | October 22, 2007 8:37 PM | Report abuse

This has HUGE consequences on the House, since this means VA-11 will not open up which is a huge blow to Democrats. Read why here:

On Campaign Diaries's House Rankings (, VA-11 already dropped from "lean takeover" to "lean retention" because of this.

Posted by: campaigndiaries | October 22, 2007 8:13 PM | Report abuse

whoa there. Jim Gilmore the popular democrat who is no relation to the current Senator? Can we get an edit on this?

Posted by: 07mlk | October 22, 2007 8:07 PM | Report abuse

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