United States Senate election in Virginia, 1996

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United States Senate election in Virginia, 1996
← 1990 November 5, 1996 2002 →
Turnout 50.2% (voting eligible)[1]
  Warner(R-VA).jpg Mark Warner, official 111th Congress photo portrait.jpg
Nominee John Warner Mark Warner
Party Republican Democratic
Popular vote 1,235,743 1,115,981
Percentage 52.5% 47.4%

1996 virginia senate election map.png
U.S. Senate election results map. Red denotes counties and cities won by John Warner. Blue denotes those won by Mark Warner.

U.S. Senator before election

John Warner

Elected U.S. Senator

John Warner

The 1996 United States Senate election in Virginia was held on November 5, 1996. Incumbent Republican U.S. Senator John Warner won re-election to a fourth term.

Democratic primary[edit]



Democratic convention vote[2]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mark Warner 626 66.53
Democratic Leslie Byrne 301 31.99
Democratic Nancy B. Spannaus 14 1.49
Total votes 941 100.00

Republican primary[edit]



John Warner, a moderate Republican who held this Senate seat from 1979, remained a popular and powerful political figure. A former United States Secretary of the Navy, he was at this time Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee.

He easily won renomination, despite opposition by a number of conservative Republicans, who distrusted him because of his moderate positions (Warner is pro-choice, pro-gun control and refused to support 1994 Senate nominee Oliver North due to his role in the Iran-Contra Affair).

Warner was endorsed by such notable figures as Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush, and Colin Powell, while Miller was endorsed by the NRA.[3]


Republican primary results[4]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican John Warner (inc.) 323,520 65.55
Republican James C. Miller III 170,015 34.45
Total votes 493,535 100.00

General election[edit]



The two Warners (no relation) competed in one of the closest Senate elections in Virginia history. The incumbent, who was a moderate Republican, was very popular and didn't even have a major opponent in his last re-election bid in 1990. Although Mark Warner was relatively unknown, he became one of John Warner's strongest challengers. The Democrat self-financed his campaign and ended up outspending the Republican. In October, the Democrat outspent the incumbent 5-1.[5]

The incumbent had to compete in a primary against someone who was more conservative because he decided to endorse an independent in the 1994 U.S. Senate election, opting not to endorse the controversial Republican nominee, Oliver North. Despite this, North did endorse John Warner in the 1996 election.[6] In the general election, the incumbent called the Democrat a "robber baron," "Carpetbagger," and a "Connecticut Yankee" who raised money from outside the state.[7][8][9] Mark Warner tried to compete in the Southern part of the state, which is traditionally Republican territory. He earned the endorsement from the Reform Party of Virginia.[10]


In June, the incumbent was leading 58%-24%.[11] On September 19, the incumbent led 54%-34%.[12]


United States Senate election in Virginia, 1996[13]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican John Warner (inc.) 1,235,744 52.48% -28.43%
Democratic Mark Warner 1,115,982 47.39% +47.39%
Write-ins 2,989 0.13% +0.81%
Majority 119,762 5.09% -57.67%
Turnout 2,354,715
Republican hold Swing


Mark Warner lost the parts of the state that are outside the three largest metropolitan areas, 51%-49%, a very impressive result for a Democrat in this heavily Republican territory. However, John Warner’s strength among moderates enabled him to carry Northern Virginia 55%-45%, which got him over the top.[14]


In 2002, John Warner was reelected with no Democratic challenger, defeating independent candidate Spannaus by a wide margin. He declined to run for re-election in 2008.

In 2001, Mark Warner was elected Governor, serving from 2002 to 2006. He left office with a high approval rating and many believed he was a potential candidate for the 2008 presidential election. After declining to run, he was mentioned as a potential vice presidential nominee. In 2008, Mark Warner was elected Senator, succeeding John Warner upon his retirement.


  1. ^ Dr. Michael McDonald (March 25, 2013). "Turnout 1980-2012". George Mason University. Retrieved April 3, 2013. 
  2. ^ "VA US Senate - D Senate Convention Race - Jun 08, 1996". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2016-03-22. 
  3. ^ "VA US Senate Race - Nov 05, 1996". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2016-03-22. 
  4. ^ "Federal Elections 96: 1996 U.S. Senate Results by State". Fec.gov. Retrieved 2016-03-22. 
  5. ^ "The Free Lance-Star - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 22 March 2016. 
  6. ^ "The Free Lance-Star - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 22 March 2016. 
  7. ^ "The Free Lance-Star - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 22 March 2016. 
  8. ^ "NewsLibrary Search Results". Retrieved 22 March 2016. 
  9. ^ "The Virginian-Pilot Archives". Nl.newsbank.com. 1996-10-16. Retrieved 2016-03-22. 
  10. ^ "The Virginian-Pilot Archives". Nl.newsbank.com. 1996-10-23. Retrieved 2016-03-22. 
  11. ^ "The Free Lance-Star - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 22 March 2016. 
  12. ^ "NewsLibrary Search Results". Retrieved 22 March 2016. 
  13. ^ "96 PRESIDENTIAL and CONGRESSIONAL ELECTION STATISTICS". Clerk.house.gov. Retrieved 2016-03-22. 
  14. ^ [1][dead link]