Mark R. Warner

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Mark Warner

Mark Robert Warner (born December 15, 1954) is an American Democratic politician and the current Governor of Virginia.


Early life and career

Warner was born in Indianapolis, Indiana and was raised in Vernon, Connecticut where he graduated from Rockville High School. He then attended George Washington University, and in 1977 became the first person in his family to graduate from college. He then graduated from Harvard Law School in 1980.

In the early 1980s, Warner served as a Senate staff member. He then used his knowledge of federal telecommunications policies as a broker of cellular phone franchise licenses, making a large fortune. As managing director of Columbia Capital Corporation he helped found or was an early investor in a number of technology companies. He co-founded Nextel as well as Capital Cellular Corporation.

Warner then involved himself in innovative public efforts related to health care, telecommunications, information technology, and education. He managed Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder's successful 1989 gubernatorial campaign and then made his own first bid for public office, unsuccessfully running for the U.S. Senate in 1996 against Republican Senator John Warner (no relation).

Governor of Virginia

In 2001, Warner campaigned for Governor as a fiscally conservative Democrat after years of slowly building up a power base in rural Virginia. He defeated the Republican candidate, then-state Attorney General Mark Earley, by a margin of almost 100,000 votes. In the same election, Republican Jerry Kilgore won election as Attorney General and Democrat Tim Kaine won election as Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. Warner's term as Governor has been dominated by his struggle with Virginia's massive debt, inherited from the prior governor, Republican Jim Gilmore. Although Virginians rejected his bid to raise the sales tax in 2002, state revenue has increased significantly from $19 billion in FY99 to nearly $30 billion in FY05. Governor Warner worked hard with moderate Republican legislators to increase the sales and cigarette taxes in 2004 - the largest tax increase in Virginia since the 1980s. He is the current chairman of the National Governors Association and of the Southern Governors' Association.

Warner's popularity paid off for the Democrats when in 2003 they made a net gain in the Virginia House of Delegates for the first time in generations (although the House remained under Republican control). He succeeded in passing a tax bill to improve the state's financial balance sheet. He won the support of several key Republican legislators and the Virginia Chamber of Commerce for the proposal, though the effort also led to an attack ad campaign from conservative seniors who opposed raising taxes and may have also been taking advantage of the opportunity to tarnish his generally positive image in advance of possible future campaigns. Warner has also made a major push to improve high school graduation. He has encountered some criticism for being too low-key and not leading on other issues but maintains he is to trying to avoid unproductive posturing and partisanship.

Lieutenant Governor Tim Kaine and Attorney General Jerry Kilgore are both seeking to succeed Warner as Governor of Virginia. Democrat Kaine is a former Mayor of Richmond; Republican Kilgore, who resigned as Attorney General in February 2005 to campaign full-time, is a former Virginia Secretary of Public Safety.

Future political career

Warner is considered to be a potential candidate for the Senate in 2006 and/or Presidential candidate in 2008, as Virginia limits its governors to a single term in office. After John Kerry's 2004 presidential election defeat, he has been regarded by some Democrats as a Bill Clinton-like figure the party could rally around in the 2008 presidential election. His business experience, Southern base, fundraising connections within high-tech and venture capital circles, and record of working with black leaders add up to an attractive political résumé.

However, having served only one term as an elected official may be considered too little experience to move up to President; the same point was raised about John Edwards' one Senate term. He is young enough that if he were to enter the Senate to gain additional experience and exposure he could wait until 2012 or 2016 before running for President. He might also wait until 2008 to run for the Senate against an 81-year old John Warner or a non-incumbent rather than challenge popular incumbent and former Governor George Allen in 2006. If he did run for president in 2008, his first test might be a comparison with several others, possibly including Evan Bayh, John Edwards, John Kerry, Tom Vilsack, and Ed Rendell, who would vie for support from moderate Democrat voters seeking a fresh voice.

DemStore, a website that manufactures official and unofficial campaign paraphernalia for Democratic office-seekers (including the 2004 presidential campaigns of Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt, and Wesley Clark), has already begun manufacturing "Warner for President" buttons and bumper stickers. It is not clear, however, if their services have been retained by Warner, by his emissaries, or by some sort of "Draft Warner" movement similar to that which surrounded Wesley Clark.

On June 10, 2005, Warner hired Monica Dixon, a former top-political aide to 2000 democratic presidential nominee Al Gore, and also formed a political action committee. Both of these actions could be indicative of a run for the presidency in the election of 2008.

External links

Preceded by:
Jim Gilmore
Governor of Virginia
Succeeded by:

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