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Sen. John Warner will not seek sixth term; retirement offers valuable opportunity to Democrats

Sen. John Warner will not seek sixth term; retirement offers valuable opportunity to Democrats

Republican Sen. John Warner of Virginia said Friday he will not seek a sixth term in 2008, offering Democrats a valuable opportunity to challenge the Republican Party for the seat and possibly expand their one-vote Senate majority.
Warner, 80, one of the most authoritative voices in Congress on the military and a key figure in the debate over Iraq, has held the seat since 1978, when the dashing former Navy secretary campaigned alongside his wife at the time, the actress Elizabeth Taylor.
"Public service is a privilege and I urge all to try to find time some time in their lifetime to serve the needs of others," Warner said at a news conference at the University of Virginia. "I have tried to be not only true to myself, but true to the people of this great commonwealth I've served for 29 years now."
Warner, who chaired the Armed Services Committee when the Republicans controlled the Senate, thanked those who had helped give him "a magnificent and very rewarding career" in the Senate.
Last week, Warner returned from a trip to Iraq and rocked the Republican White House with a call for President George W. Bush to begin a troop withdrawal by Christmas.
The most likely Democratic contender for his seat is former Gov. Mark R. Warner, a wealthy businessman who left office in early 2006 with unprecedented job-approval ratings. Mark Warner, who is not related to the senator, unsuccessfully challenged him in the 1996 Senate race.
The nomination battle among Republicans probably will include former Gov. Jim Gilmore and U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis.
The Republican Party nominated Warner for the Senate in 1978 after the party's first choice, Richard Obenshain, was killed in a plane crash. Warner was elected by the razor-thin margin of 4,721 votes out of 1.2 million cast. He was easily re-elected in 1984 and 1990. He beat Mark Warner by about 5 percentage points in 1996 and was unopposed in 2002.
In 1996, the conservative wing of his own party tried to deny Warner a fourth term. Warner had angered conservatives two years earlier by opposing Republican nominee Oliver North's bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Charles S. Robb. Warner declared the Iran-Contra scandal figure unfit for public office and backed an independent who drew enough votes from moderates to ensure Robb's re-election.
In the Iran-Contra scandal, which broke in 1987 during Ronald Reagan's presidency, administration members sold weapons to Iran, reportedly to fund Nicaraguan rebels.
Angered by what they viewed as party disloyalty, Republican conservatives backed former Reagan administration budget director Jim Miller to challenge Warner for renomination. Warner easily defeated Miller in a primary.
Warner mended his relationship with the party by supporting the successful campaigns of Gilmore for governor in 1997 and George Allen for Robb's Senate seat in 2000.
Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, called Warner "a good friend, a great Virginian, and a true statesman."
"All Virginians should honor his distinguished leadership," Kaine said.
Warner's actions in recent weeks had fueled speculation that he would retire. Several longtime staff aides and advisers moved on to other jobs, and he raised less than $75,000 (euro54,700) in campaign funds for the first half of 2007, including only $500 (euro365) in the first three months.


Updated : 2021-05-10 14:07 GMT+08:00