United States Senate election in Virginia, 2008
|U.S. Senate election results map. Blue denotes counties/districts won by Warner. Red denotes those won by Gilmore.|
|Elections in Virginia|
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.
On August 31, 2007, Warner formally announced that he would not be seeking re-election. 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.
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.
On September 12, 2007, former Governor Mark Warner (no relation to John Warner) announced his candidacy. 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.
On September 16, 2007, Republican Rep. Tom Davis of the 11th District unofficially announced that he would seek election to the seat. The Washington Times reported that John Warner delayed his retirement announcement specifically to help Davis.
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. 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.
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.
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. Gilmore confirmed his candidacy on November 19, 2007.
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. 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.
Republican Convention Vote 
|Candidate||1st District||2nd District||3rd District||4th District||5th District||6th District||7th District||8th District||9th District||10th District||11th District||Total|
On March 29, 2008, the Libertarian Party of Virginia state convention nominated Bill Redpath as its Senate candidate. 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.
After the Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian State Conventions, the final nominated candidates for the 2008 Virginia Senate Election were:
- Jim Gilmore - Republican Nominee - From Henrico County, Virginia
- Mark Warner - Democratic Nominee - From Alexandria, Virginia
- Bill Redpath - Libertarian Nominee - From Leesburg, Virginia
- Glenda Gail Parker - Green Nominee - From Alexandria, Virginia
- Jim Gilmore (R), former governor
- Glenda Parker (G)
- Bill Redpath (L)
- Mark Warner (D), former governor
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, flip-flopping  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.
CQ Politics rated the race as 'Safe Democrat'. The Cook Political Report considered it 'Likely Democrat'. The Rothenberg Political Report considered it a 'Likely Takeover'. 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.
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. 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.
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."
On election night, Warner was declared the winner based on exit polls alone, before the votes were counted.
- Bristol Herald-Courier
- Daily Press (Newport News)
- Danville Register & Bee
- Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star
- Loudoun Times-Mirror
- Martinsville Bulletin
- News and Advance (Lynchburg)
- The Roanoke Times
- The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk)
- Washington Post
|Cook Political Report||Solid D||October 31, 2008|
|Rothenberg||Likely Takeover||October 28, 2008|
|Swing State Project||Safe D|
|RealClearPolitics||Likely D||October 31, 2008|
|Sabato's Crystal Ball||Safe D||October 28, 2008|
|CQ Politics||Safe D||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%|
|Independent Greens||Glenda Parker||21,690||0.60%||+0.60%|
|Democratic gain from Republican||Swing|
- Dr. Michael McDonald (March 31, 2012). "2008 General Election Turnout Rates". George Mason University. Retrieved March 4, 2013.
- Tim Craig (April 13, 2007). "Warner's Fundraising Prompts Speculation on Reelection Plans". The Washington Post. p. B01.
- "Sen. Warner won't seek sixth term". Associated Press via MSNBC. August 31, 2007.
- Tim Craig and Amy Gardner (September 13, 2007). "Former Va. Gov. Warner Set to Seek Senate Seat". The Washington Post. p. A01.
- "Sen. Ensign Says GOP Majority Would Be 'Fairly Miraculous'". The Wall Street Journal. June 12, 2008.
- Mark Warner Video Announcement
- Bill Turque (September 15, 2007). "Would-Be Candidate Is Taking His Time". The Washington Post. p. B01.
- McLaughlin, Seth (June 25, 2007). "Mum Warner likely to move on". The Washington Times. Retrieved 2007-06-25.
- The Editors (October 1, 2007). "Draft General Pace". National Review. Retrieved 2007-10-02.
- Craig, Tim; Agiesta, Jennifer (13 October 2007). "Republicans Opt for Convention to Choose Nominee - washingtonpost.com". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 27, 2010.
- "Davis Out Of Senate Race, Offers Lukewarm Endorsement To Gilmore". CBS News. October 25, 2007.
- Craig, Tim (November 19, 2007). "Gilmore Enters Senate Race". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-11-19.
- Craig, Tim. Marshall to Challenge Gilmore For Republican Nomination. The Washington Post. 2008-01-08.
- Lewis, Bob (May 31, 2008). "Gilmore wins Va. GOP Senate nomination". WTOP-FM. Retrieved 2008-05-31.
- Wordpress.com (June 1, 2008). "The 2008 Virginia Republican Party Convention".
- LPVA - Libertarian Party of Virginia
- Independent Greens of Virginia
- Jim Gilmore for Senate (July 17, 2008). "Youtube- Mark Warner's "No Tax Pledge" of 2001".
- Jim Gilmore for President (July 17, 2008). "Sabato: Which is the real Mark Warner?".
- Richmond Times Dispatch (October 6, 2008). "Warner, Gilmore spill over bailout".
- Race Ratings Chart: Senate Archived October 28, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. CQ Politics
- 2008 Senate Race Ratings Archived November 20, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. The Cook Political Report, October 9, 2008
- 2008 Senate Ratings The Rothenberg Political Report, September 29, 2008
- Kate Phillips, G.O.P. Leader Maps Senate Elections The New York Times, June 13, 2008
- The Daily News Record: Top News
- Holmes, Matt (July 19, 2008). "Gilmore, Warner Square Off In First Senate Debate". WCAV. Retrieved 2008-07-25.
- Craig, Tim (July 24, 2008). "Gilmore Filed False Information On Campaign Disclosure Forms". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-07-25.
- Emerling, Gary (July 18, 2008). "Warner, Gilmore ready to debate". The Washington Times. Retrieved 2008-07-26.
- Topic Galleries - dailypress.com
- Warner for Senate
- Vote Warner for Senate - Martinsville Bulletin
- Mark Warner for U.S. Senate - Roanoke.com
- Mark Warner for U.S. Senate | HamptonRoads.com | PilotOnline.com
- "Mark Warner for Senate". The Washington Post. October 12, 2008. Retrieved May 27, 2010.
- "Senate". Cook Political Report. Retrieved October 31, 2010.
- "Senate Ratings". Rothenberg Political Report. Retrieved October 31, 2010.
- "Battle for the Senate". RealClearPolitics. Retrieved October 31, 2010.
- "2010 Senate Ratings". Sabato's Crystal Ball. Retrieved October 31, 2010.
- "Race Ratings Chart: Senate". CQ Politics. Archived from the original on October 28, 2010. Retrieved October 31, 2010.
- Virginia State Board of Elections
- U.S. Congress candidates for Virginia at Project Vote Smart
- Virginia, U.S. Senate from CQ Politics
- Virginia U.S. Senate from OurCampaigns.com
- Virginia Senate race from 2008 Race Tracker
- Campaign contributions from OpenSecrets.org
- Gilmore (R) vs M. Warner (D) graph of multiple polls from Pollster.com
- Official campaign websites