United States Senate election in Virginia, 2008

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United States Senate election in Virginia, 2008
2002 ←
November 4, 2008 → 2014

Turnout 67.0% (voting eligible)[1]
  Mark Warner in Philadelphia, May 18, 2006, gesturing.jpg Jim Gilmore by Gage Skidmore 2.jpg
Nominee Mark Warner Jim Gilmore
Party Democratic Republican
Popular vote 2,369,327 1,228,830
Percentage 65.0% 33.7%

Virginia Senate Election Results by County, 2008.svg

U.S. Senate election results map. Blue denotes counties/districts won by Warner. Red denotes those won by Gilmore.

U.S. Senator before election

John Warner

Elected U.S. Senator

Mark Warner

The 2008 United States Senate election in Virginia was held on November 4, 2008. Incumbent Republican U.S. Senator John Warner decided to retire instead of seeking a sixth term. Democrat Mark Warner (no relation) won the open seat by the most lopsided margin for a contested Senate race in Virginia in 20 years. Warner became the first Democrat to win this seat since 1972 when the Republicans first won it.


John Warner had served Virginia in the Senate since 1979, and had been cagey about whether he would be running for re-election. He would have been favored for a sixth term had he decided to run again, even with recent Democratic gains in the state. In early 2007, speculation and rumors of his possible retirement were raised in the news media, and when Warner reported on April 12, 2007 that he had raised only $500 in campaign contributions during the first quarter, speculation increased that he may not seek a sixth term.[2]

On August 31, 2007, Warner formally announced that he would not be seeking re-election.[3] The race was expected to be competitive, given the Democrats' two successive gubernatorial victories (2001, 2005) and the unseating of Republican senator George Allen by Jim Webb in 2006.[4]

The Wall Street Journal reported a story of National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman Senator John Ensign outlining the 10 most competitive seats of the 2008 Senate Election. When asked about the two GOP seats likely to switch parties, Virginia and New Mexico, on whether the NRSC is mulling walking away to work on other seats that can be won, Ensign said, "You don’t waste money on races that don’t need it or you can’t win.” This suggested that the NRSC may have started cutting money off.[5]

State conventions[edit]

Democratic Party[edit]

On September 12, 2007, former Governor Mark Warner (no relation to John Warner) announced his candidacy.[4][6] Mark Warner had challenged John Warner for his Senate seat in 1996, but was narrowly defeated. Mark Warner later won election in 2001 as Governor of Virginia, and left office with a high level of popularity in 2006. He was confirmed as the party nominee at the state convention on June 10, 2008, as he went unopposed.

Republican Party[edit]

On September 16, 2007, Republican Rep. Tom Davis of the 11th District unofficially announced that he would seek election to the seat.[7] The Washington Times reported that John Warner delayed his retirement announcement specifically to help Davis.[8]

On 1 October 2007, the editors of the National Review encouraged Virginia voters to draft General Peter Pace, the retiring Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to run in 2008 for the Senate seat to be vacated by retiring Senator John Warner. The magazine cited Pace's conservative Catholic beliefs in making its suggestion.[9] On 2 October 2007, the Wall Street Journal's Political Diary ran a piece about Virginia Republicans attempting to persuade Gen. Pace to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. John Warner in 2008.[citation needed]

On October 13, the Republican Party of Virginia's State Central Committee voted 47-37 to hold a statewide convention rather than a primary. Former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore argued strongly for a convention, claiming it would save the candidates money. It reportedly costs $4 million to compete in a primary, while it costs only $1 million for a convention. Davis argued that a primary would expose the candidates to the kind of environment they would face in November. A primary was thought to favor Davis due to his popularity in voter-rich Northern Virginia. In contrast, a convention was thought to favor Gilmore because most of the delegates would come from the party's activist base, which is tilted heavily to the right. With the decision, Gilmore said he was seriously considering entering the race.[10]

Davis dropped out of the race on October 25, 2007, citing the potential difficulties of defeating Gilmore in the conservative-dominated GOP convention and in taking on Warner, who is very popular in Davis' own Northern Virginia base.[11] Gilmore confirmed his candidacy on November 19, 2007.[12]

On January 7, 2008, Delegate Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County), a sixteen-year state legislator from Northern Virginia known for his social conservative values, announced he would challenge Gilmore for the Republican nomination May 31, 2008.[13] The convention was held on May 31, 2008, where Gilmore won the nomination with 50.3% of the vote, just 65 votes more than Marshall.[14]

Republican Convention Vote [15]

Candidate 1st District 2nd District 3rd District 4th District 5th District 6th District 7th District 8th District 9th District 10th District 11th District Total
Jim Gilmore 491 613 121 319 667 531 1036 156 552 160 557 5223
Bob Marshall 643 345 75 383 420 507 582 145 335 585 1137 5157
Total 1134 958 196 702 1087 938 1618 301 887 745 1714 10380

Third parties[edit]

On March 29, 2008, the Libertarian Party of Virginia state convention nominated Bill Redpath as its Senate candidate.[16] Redpath, the current national party chair, cited the importance of running a Libertarian candidate for federal office this election year, considering the fact that the Independent Greens have been fielding candidates so actively in recent years. Glenda Gail Parker from Alexandria, a retired U.S. Air Force officer, will run again for the Independent Greens as she did in the 2006 Senate election.[17]

Nominated candidates[edit]

After the Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian State Conventions, the final nominated candidates for the 2008 Virginia Senate Election were:

General election[edit]



Former Gov. Mark Warner (D) campaigns at the Dixie Theatre in Staunton, Virginia
Republican Senator John Warner chose to retire after five terms.
Former Gov. Jim Gilmore (R)

After the conclusions of the state conventions, Democrat Mark Warner had emerged as the front-runner for the Class 2 Senate seat from Virginia. Some early polling showed Mark Warner leading Jim Gilmore by as much as 2-1.

Pundits and analysists believed Virginia to be the single strongest pickup opportunity for the Democrats due to Warner's consistent lead in the polls.

Jim Gilmore responded aggressively, mostly with ads on the Internet; his campaign had very little money. Gilmore attacked Warner for raising taxes during his term as governor, when he had pledged not to do so,[18] flip-flopping [19] among many other topics.

On October 6, 2008, Mark Warner and Jim Gilmore debated various issues, including the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, the Iraq War and Judicial nominees. The Richmond Times Dispatch sponsored the debate held at the Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke, Virginia.[20]

CQ Politics rated the race as 'Safe Democrat'.[21] The Cook Political Report considered it 'Likely Democrat'.[22] The Rothenberg Political Report considered it a 'Likely Takeover'.[23] In June, Senator John Ensign of Nevada, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, considered the state to be one of the top ten most competitive Senate races.[24]

Mark Warner argued he'd be part of a radical centrist coalition, no matter who won the Presidency. He claimed the coalition would improve cooperation in the Congress and its subsequent public perception. Warner spoke of alternative energy, and Gilmore argued for offshore drilling.[25] The issue of the 2004 tax increase under then-Governor Mark Warner was raised at the first debate of the campaign between Gilmore and Warner.[26]

The Washington Post reported on July 24, 2008, that Jim Gilmore "submitted false information on two financial disclosure forms that hid his ties to a government contractor embroiled in a legal dispute over allegations that two of its executives had conspired to defraud the federal government." The Gilmore campaign responded by saying, the controversy was due to a "clerical error."[27]

On election night, Warner was declared the winner based on exit polls alone, before the votes were counted.


Money played a large role in the campaign. By July, Mark Warner had raised $9 million, while Jim Gilmore had raised $1.2 million.[28] This does not include money from the DSCC or NRSC.


Mark Warner

Jim Gilmore


Source Ranking As of
Cook Political Report Solid D[40] October 31, 2008
Rothenberg Likely Takeover[41] October 28, 2008
Swing State Project Safe D[citation needed]
RealClearPolitics Likely D[42] October 31, 2008
Sabato's Crystal Ball Safe D[43] October 28, 2008
CQ Politics Safe D[44] October 31, 2008


Source Date Gilmore (R) Warner (D)
Survey USA November 1, 2008 35% 59%
Survey USA October 26, 2008 32% 63%
Survey USA October 18, 2008 36% 60%
Rasmussen Reports October 16, 2008 36% 61%
Rasmussen Reports September 25, 2008 34% 60%
Survey USA September 21, 2008 34% 57%
Newport University September 17, 2008 30% 54%
Public Policy Polling September 13, 2008 33% 57%
Survey USA September 12, 2008 34% 57%
Survey USA September 7, 2008 35% 56%
Public Policy Polling August 22, 2008 32% 55%
Rasmussen Reports August 12, 2008 35% 61%
Rasmussen Reports July 16, 2008 36% 59%
PPP(D) June 14, 2008 28% 59%
Rasmussen Reports June 12, 2008 33% 60%
Rasmussen Reports May 8, 2008 37% 55%
Rasmussen Reports March 26, 2008 39% 55%
Rasmussen Reports February 19, 2008 37% 57%
Rasmussen Reports January 3, 2008 38% 53%
SurveyUSA November 5, 2007 35% 57%
Rasmussen Reports October 24, 2007 37% 53%
Washington Post October 12, 2007 31% 61%
Newport University October 1, 2007 27% 51%
Survey USA September 17, 2007 32% 60%
Rasmussen Reports September 5, 2007 34% 54%


United States Senate election in Virginia, 2008[45]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Mark Warner 2,369,327 65.03% +65.03%
Republican Jim Gilmore 1,228,830 33.72% -48.85%
Independent Greens Glenda Parker 21,690 0.60% +0.60%
Libertarian Bill Redpath 20,269 0.56% +0.56%
Write-ins 3,178 0.09% -0.47%
Majority 1,140,497 31.30% -41.53%
Turnout 3,643,294
Democratic gain from Republican Swing


  1. ^ Dr. Michael McDonald (March 31, 2012). "2008 General Election Turnout Rates". George Mason University. Retrieved March 4, 2013. 
  2. ^ Tim Craig (April 13, 2007). "Warner's Fundraising Prompts Speculation on Reelection Plans". The Washington Post. p. B01. 
  3. ^ "Sen. Warner won't seek sixth term". Associated Press via MSNBC. August 31, 2007. 
  4. ^ a b Tim Craig and Amy Gardner (September 13, 2007). "Former Va. Gov. Warner Set to Seek Senate Seat". The Washington Post. p. A01. 
  5. ^ "Sen. Ensign Says GOP Majority Would Be 'Fairly Miraculous'". The Wall Street Journal. June 12, 2008. 
  6. ^ Mark Warner Video Announcement
  7. ^ Bill Turque (September 15, 2007). "Would-Be Candidate Is Taking His Time". The Washington Post. p. B01. 
  8. ^ McLaughlin, Seth (June 25, 2007). "Mum Warner likely to move on". The Washington Times. Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  9. ^ The Editors (October 1, 2007). "Draft General Pace". National Review. Retrieved 2007-10-02. 
  10. ^ Craig, Tim; Agiesta, Jennifer (13 October 2007). "Republicans Opt for Convention to Choose Nominee - washingtonpost.com". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 27, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Davis Out Of Senate Race, Offers Lukewarm Endorsement To Gilmore". CBS News. October 25, 2007. 
  12. ^ Craig, Tim (November 19, 2007). "Gilmore Enters Senate Race". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-11-19. 
  13. ^ Craig, Tim. Marshall to Challenge Gilmore For Republican Nomination. The Washington Post. 2008-01-08.
  14. ^ Lewis, Bob (May 31, 2008). "Gilmore wins Va. GOP Senate nomination". WTOP-FM. Retrieved 2008-05-31. 
  15. ^ Wordpress.com (June 1, 2008). "The 2008 Virginia Republican Party Convention". 
  16. ^ LPVA - Libertarian Party of Virginia
  17. ^ Independent Greens of Virginia
  18. ^ Jim Gilmore for Senate (July 17, 2008). "Youtube- Mark Warner's "No Tax Pledge" of 2001". 
  19. ^ Jim Gilmore for President (July 17, 2008). "Sabato: Which is the real Mark Warner?". 
  20. ^ Richmond Times Dispatch (October 6, 2008). "Warner, Gilmore spill over bailout". 
  21. ^ Race Ratings Chart: Senate Archived October 28, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. CQ Politics
  22. ^ 2008 Senate Race Ratings Archived November 20, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. The Cook Political Report, October 9, 2008
  23. ^ 2008 Senate Ratings The Rothenberg Political Report, September 29, 2008
  24. ^ Kate Phillips, G.O.P. Leader Maps Senate Elections The New York Times, June 13, 2008
  25. ^ The Daily News Record: Top News
  26. ^ Holmes, Matt (July 19, 2008). "Gilmore, Warner Square Off In First Senate Debate". WCAV. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  27. ^ Craig, Tim (July 24, 2008). "Gilmore Filed False Information On Campaign Disclosure Forms". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  28. ^ Emerling, Gary (July 18, 2008). "Warner, Gilmore ready to debate". The Washington Times. Retrieved 2008-07-26. 
  29. ^ [1]
  30. ^ Topic Galleries - dailypress.com
  31. ^ [2]
  32. ^ Warner for Senate
  33. ^ [3]
  34. ^ Vote Warner for Senate - Martinsville Bulletin
  35. ^ [4]
  36. ^ Mark Warner for U.S. Senate - Roanoke.com
  37. ^ Mark Warner for U.S. Senate | HamptonRoads.com | PilotOnline.com
  38. ^ "Mark Warner for Senate". The Washington Post. October 12, 2008. Retrieved May 27, 2010. 
  39. ^ [5]
  40. ^ "Senate". Cook Political Report. Retrieved October 31, 2010. 
  41. ^ "Senate Ratings". Rothenberg Political Report. Retrieved October 31, 2010. 
  42. ^ "Battle for the Senate". RealClearPolitics. Retrieved October 31, 2010. 
  43. ^ "2010 Senate Ratings". Sabato's Crystal Ball. Retrieved October 31, 2010. 
  44. ^ "Race Ratings Chart: Senate". CQ Politics. Archived from the original on October 28, 2010. Retrieved October 31, 2010. 
  45. ^ http://clerk.house.gov/member_info/electionInfo/2008/2008Stat.htm#stateVA

External links[edit]

Official campaign websites