Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

The race for Virginia’s U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Senator John Warner got off to a strong start this week. Mark Warner barnstormed the state on Monday and Tuesday to make official what most have known for months – he is running!

He covered Northern Virginia in one event at the Carlyle Club in Alexandria. On Monday evening. The club was jammed by 7 p.m., and more than jammed by the time the Warner entourage took the stage at about 7:30. To say that we were enthusiastic would be an understatement.

A large number of Northern Virginia Democratic officeholders were there – largely from Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church – too many to list here. Warner’s future colleagues in Congress – Senator Jim Webb, and Representatives Jim Moran and Bobby Scott – were also much in evidence.

Former Lt. Governor Don Beyer opened the meeting, welcoming us all and recognizing the dignitaries. He then turned the podium over to soon-to-be senior senator Jim Webb.

Senator Webb introduced Warner with a rip-snorting speech of his own. Poking fun at his “decline” in titles from “His Excellency” as Governor, to future “commander-in-chief” during his brief flirtation with a presidential race, down to the future “junior senator” to Webb’s new senior senator status. Webb then launched into a passionate speech about the absolute necessity of changing the leadership in Washington from top to bottom.

Quoting former Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn, Webb said “any jackass can kick a barn down, but it takes a carpenter to build one.” He continued, “that’s the Democrats, that’s Mark Warner!” he said to thunderous applause.

Warner then took the stage, to more thunderous applause. He gave an impassioned speech about the race, outlining the main issues that will drive him during the campaign. He pointed out that he inherited a state that was on the verge of bankruptcy and built it into a state that Forbes magazine cited as the best run in America, and Education Weekly saying that Virginia had the best education system, top to bottom, in the country.

Warner also had some very warm things so say about retiring Senator John Warner, whom he cited as a mentor and a great public servant. It will be interesting to see what role John Warner will play in the race.

Representative Jim Moran said in his brief (!) remarks that the race will pit Virginia’s best governor against Virginia’s worst governor, referring to the fact that former governor Jim Gilmore will likely be the Republican nominee. This, and the fact that Mark Warner is one the most popular governors ever to hold the seat, probably means that Warner will sweep to victory in November.  I would be surprised if he got less than 75% of the vote in Arlington, and probably more.

None of this can be taken for granted, though, and Mark Warner clearly understands this. We can look forward to a lively race this fall.

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