Sen. Mark Warner. D-Va., announced Tuesday that he’s staying put in the U.S. Senate, opting against a second shot at the Virginia governor’s mansion. Warner’s decision means former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe, who came in second place in the 2009 gubernatorial primary, is the Democrats’ likely gubernatorial nominee.
"I loved being Governor, but I have a different job now -- and it’s here, in the United States Senate," said Warner said in a statement. "I hope my value add in Congress is to continue working hard every day to not simply blame the other side, but to actually try to find common ground so we can get stuff done."
Warner, a member of the Senate's "Gang of Eight" bipartisan group that is working to avert the fiscal cliff, lamented the pace of work in the Capitol but pledged to at serve out his term, which is up in 2014.
"At times, it’s been frustrating. But I believe this work is important for Virginia, and for our country, and I intend to see it through," said Warner, who served as governor from 2002 to 2006
With Warner out, McAuliffe will be able to begin raising big bucks in anticipation for what’s likely to be a fiery off-year election. On the Republican side, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is squaring off against lieutenant governor Bill Bolling, with the nominee being determined at a spring convention. Cuccinelli, thanks to his strong support from the state’s conservative activists, starts out as the favorite, though Bolling boasts support from Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.
McAuliffe has no announced primary opponent.
Both McAuliffe and Cuccinelli are accomplished fundraisers, boasting national networks of supporters who could pour millions into their campaign accounts. Bolling, if he was the nominee, would start at a fundraising disadvantage. Unlike elections for federal offices, Virginia does not have any contribution limits.
In a fundraising e-mail Cuccinelli sent this afternoon, he warned his supporters that in 2009, McAuliffe "raised $7.5 million in 5 months. That is an absolutely scorching pace. But I'm used to being outspent. In all four of my races, my opponents won the money battle. I won the vote battle."
A Quinnipiac poll conducted earlier this month shows McAuliffe narrowly leading both Cuccinelli and Bolling, but with most voters unfamiliar with all of the contenders.