At a panel discussion in Charlottesville on June 20, former U.S. Senator John Warner (R-Va.) explained his choice to endorse his one-time rival, incumbent Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) over Republican nominee Ed Gillespie. The two Warners had faced off against each other in 1996, when the senior Warner won re-election to the fourth of his five terms in Congress.
During the conversation, former Senator Warner paid a compliment to the Republican candidate challenging his successor in the Senate.
'A good strong opponent'
Acknowledging that his cross-party endorsement had “stirred up a few feathers here not long ago,” John Warner pointed out that Mark Warner is “on his own This state's going to have a good Senate race. He's got a strong opponent for a change, a good strong opponent. So they'll duke it out and the best man will win. That's the way it goes."
At that point, panel moderator Larry Sabato replied, "I think Ed Gillespie could use that segment in a TV ad. We'll see whether it shows up to balance things out."
After the program ended, Mark Warner answered questions posed by the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner about the political climate and his challenger.
Cantor and Brat
Warner commented first on the results in the GOP primary in the seventh congressional district on June 10, when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was upset by Randolph-Macon College economics professor David Brat.
Saying that the anti-incumbent sentiment displayed in that election does not concern him with regard to his own re-election prospects, the Virginia senator added that “there were special circumstances in that race” that resulted in Cantor's defeat.
He did, however, note that the loss was not good for his home state.
“I didn't agree with Eric Cantor on a lot of policy issues but I think he was important for Virginia,” Warner said. His loss, he added, along with the retirements of Frank Wolf (R-VA10) and Jim Moran (D-VA8), “hurts Virginia's position in the Congress.”
Returning to the theme of the panel discussion – comity and civility in politics – Warner stated that what he finds “around Virginia is that people actually want folks who are willing to work together and be bipartisan. He asserted that he is “happy to take my record of that to the people of Virginia this fall.”
His challenger, Ed Gillespie, disagrees that Warner has a record of bipartisanship. Instead, Gillespie has emphasized a claim that Warner has voted with President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid "97 percent of the time."
Warner denied this.
“If I had that kind of record,” he said, “John Warner wouldn't be endorsing me for the United States Senate. I've got a record that shows [that for] every major piece of legislation I work on, I have a Republican partner.”
Warner said that he differs with the President on issues like the Keystone pipeline, export of natural gas, and the U.S. government's reaction to Syria.”
He said that on the budget, “I had a much bolder plan than either the president or, for that matter, even the Republicans, for fixing our debt and deficit I'm more than willing to step out on those positions” as he defends his record to voters in the 2014 election campaign.
The entire discussion between John Warner and Mark Warner, moderated by Larry Sabato of the Center for Politics, is available for viewing on YouTube.