The Mysterious McCain-Warner Campaign Signs
Some motorists who traveled to The Homestead Friday night for the U.S. Senate debate between Democrat Mark R. Warner and Republican James S. Gilmore III were doing double-takes as they drove from Warm Springs to Hot Springs in Bath County.
About four miles from The Homestead, blue and white "Warner for Senate" signs began to line the highway. Interspersed with those signs were about a half-dozen signs that included the Democrat's name as well as that of Arizona Senator John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee for president.
The web address "Votebipartisan.com" was streaked across the bottom of the signs.
The McCain-Warner signs caught the attention of the Gilmore campaign, which was shooting video footage of them.
So how did the signs, which appeared professionally made, get there?
Washington Post reporter Anita Kumar later saw Jim Wilson, a longtime Republican operative who used to do work for former GOP senator George Allen, with both the regular Warner signs and the McCain-Warner signs in his truck.
Although he is a Republican, Wilson is now supporting Warner. "He'll be more like John Warner than anybody else," Wilson told the Associated Press in April.
In 1996, Wilson told the Richmond Times Dispatch he drove his pickup truck 9,000 miles putting up signs for Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) during the race for the GOP nomination that year.
Wilson now travels the state putting up campaign signs for Democrat Mark Warner, especially when the former governor attends or speaks at large events.
Warner, as does Gilmore, often has people erect dozens, sometimes hundreds, of campaign signs on highways that lead to locations he is scheduled to visit.
But Kevin Hall, a Warner spokesman, said the Warner campaign was not aware Wilson also had McCain-Warner signs. Hall said Wilson is "a campaign volunteer" who is free to put up whatever signs he wants because he is not, Hall claims, paid by either the campaign or Warner.
Hall added he heard that a new organization has been formed to promote both McCain and Warner, although he stressed Warner does not sanction it.
"A campaign volunteer apparently decided to get involved" in a new group, Hall said Saturday morning.
(Hall called back Monday morning to say he misspoke when he said over the weekend Wilson was not being paid by the campaign. Hall said the Warner campaign reimburses Wilson for mileage and other expenses. Wilson will also soon draw a salary from the Virginia Democratic Party's coordinated campaign. But Hall said Wilson has told him he was in possession of only one McCain-Warner sign, which he plans to put up in his yard at home.)
The votebipartisan.com website is not operational yet. But Bradley Hungerman from Williamsburg registered the site on July 5 through GoDaddy.com, according to that website.
Last month, Hungerman registered a political committee called Vote Bipartisan with the Virginia State Board of Elections.
The filings with the elections board say the state committee, which hasn't started raising money, is designed to promote both McCain and Warner. The political committee lists a Williamsburg post-office box as its address, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
On June 25, Hungerman also registered a Vote Bipartisan political committee with the Federal Election Commission.
According to William & Mary's website, Hungerman is a student at the college.
FEC documents say Andrew J. Hungerman III, a former vice-president at Colonial Williamsburg, is the registered agent of the federal committee. But it raised and spent just $24 between June 25 and June 30, the last day of the reporting period.
Neither Bradley nor his father, Andrew Hungerman, appear to be frequent contributors to either state or federal political candidates, although Andrew Hungerman made a $250 donation in 2003 to Senate Minority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City).
Andrew Hungerman referred questions to his son, Bradley.
Bradley Hungerman said Sunday night he traveled to The Homestead Friday night with about 30 signs for the debate.
"This is my project," said Hungerman, who said he put up the signs. "I read about the debate a few weeks ago, so I thought it might be a good idea for our organization to get a little coverage."
Hungerman, a college senior who said he doesn't know Wilson, said he formed the political action committees by himself because he wants to create a bipartisan government.
"We have chosen to support John McCain and Mark Warner because they have a history of bipartisan politics," said Hungerman, who added the Warner campaign was not involved in helping him think up or register the political committees. "This is my own idea."
It's not unusual for some Warner supporters to try to link him to Republicans. During his 2001 campaign for governor, Warner-Kilgore signs appeared in Southwest Virginia when former attorney general Jerry W. Kilgore (R) was also on the ballot.
Lynn Mitchell, a Republican blogger from Augusta County, has posted a picture of the McCain-Warner sign online that she credits John Maxfield with shooting.
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