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Biography

Elected: 2008, term expires 2014, 1st term.

Born: December 15, 1954, Indianapolis, IN

Home: Alexandria, VA

Education: George Washington U., B.A. 1977, Harvard U., J.D. 1980

Professional Career: Fundraiser, DNC, 1980-82; Venture capitalist, 1982-89; Mng. dir., Columbia Capital Corp., 1989-2001; Chairman, VA Democratic Party, 1993-95.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Presbyterian

Family: Married (Lisa Collis) , 3 children

Democrat Mark Warner, a former Virginia governor elected in 2008, is the state’s senior senator. He is considered one of his party’s fast-rising stars, having found a way for Democrats to make inroads among Southern voters. But he sweated out a close win in what was initially thought to be an easy reelection bid in 2014.

Warner was born in Indianapolis, where his father was a safety evaluator for Aetna Life & Casualty Inc. and his mother stayed at home with their two children. The family moved to Vernon, Conn., when Warner was in the eighth grade. He later recalled that he was influenced by a social studies teacher who encouraged his students to pay attention to the turbulent social change unfolding in the late 1960s. He graduated from George Washington University, the first college graduate in his family, and from Harvard Law School. Although he has emphasized his business experience in his campaigns, his first love seems to have been politics.

After law school, he worked in fundraising for the Democratic National Committee and in 1989, managed Douglas Wilder’s successful campaign to become Virginia’s first African-American governor. His business success in fact grew out of his political contacts. While working for the DNC, Warner met Rep. Tom McMillen, a Maryland Democrat, who told him about the potential of cell phone markets just as the Reagan administration was about to award 1,500 free licenses for metropolitan markets. Warner cobbled together investor groups and packaged their applications in exchange for a fee and a 5% ownership stake if they received the licenses. The best known of these ventures was Nextel, and Warner quickly became a wealthy man. His average net worth in 2011 was estimated at $228 million, making him one of the richest members of Congress.

But politics was always on Warner’s mind. From 1993 to 1995, he was the Virginia Democratic chairman. In 1996, he ran against Republican Sen. John Warner in what seemed a quixotic race: The senior Warner, elected narrowly in 1978, had won reelection in a landslide in 1984 and had no Democratic opponent in 1990. Mark Warner pitched his campaign not to his home turf in Northern Virginia but to the Shenandoah Valley and southwest Virginia. He carried Southwest Virginia and lost the part of the state outside the three big metropolitan areas by only 51%-49%, a considerable achievement for a Democrat. But John Warner’s strength among moderates enabled him to carry Northern Virginia 55%-45% and to carry Tidewater and metropolitan Richmond with smaller majorities. The result was a 52%-47% win for John Warner, but certainly not an end to upstart Mark Warner’s political career.

In the late 1990s, Mark Warner put millions of dollars into philanthropic efforts and set up four regional business investment funds in Southwest Virginia, Southside Virginia, Richmond, and Tidewater. By 1999, he had an eye on running for governor in 2001 as an entrepreneur who could bring savvy business methods to government. He picked a good year. Incumbent Republican Gov. Jim Gilmore had succeeded in helping to elect Republican majorities in both houses of the legislature but then battled with them over the budget. Republicans had a primary battle in 2001 between Lt. Gov. John Hager and former Attorney General Mark Earley. Earley won but had little money and no clear campaign strategy. Warner ultimately spent $5 million of his own money on the campaign.

Warner lived in a mansion in Old Town Alexandria but avoided being typecast as an urban liberal. He called himself a fiscal conservative and pledged not to raise the income or sales taxes. Responding to complaints from traffic-choked Northern Virginia and Tidewater, he called for regional referenda on local sales tax increases for transportation. He opposed any new gun control laws and wooed the National Rifle Association, which remained neutral. Warner ran ads featuring old pickup trucks and bluegrass music, and he sponsored a NASCAR race truck. He traveled to all parts of rural Virginia, much as Wilder had in 1989, to show that he was in touch with everyday folks and to remind them of his investment funds and philanthropic initiatives.

Warner won, but not resoundingly, by 52%-47%, a reversal of the numbers in the 1996 Senate race. He carried all major regions of the state, albeit by narrow margins. And he attracted notice from national Democrats for winning a Southern state through business-friendly, fiscally responsible policies along with cultural conservatism—a combination Warner dubbed “radical centrism.”

Once in office, Warner got the legislature to approve transportation tax referenda in Northern Virginia and Tidewater, but the House of Delegates rejected his education initiative in 2002. As a budget shortfall grew, Warner cut $858 million in spending and laid off 1,800 state employees. In November 2003, after the legislative elections and when Virginia seemed to be in danger of losing its AAA bond rating, Warner presented his new fiscal plan: a $1 billion tax increase, with increases in the income, sales, and cigarette taxes, and tax reductions for those with low incomes and in the car and food taxes. In early 2004, his plan was rejected by the heavily Republican House of Delegates, which increased taxes by just $520 million and provided few spending increases. But the state Senate passed a $3.8 billion tax increase, with $1.7 billion in new spending for schools and $1.6 billion for transportation. GOP Speaker William Howell was unable to hold his Republicans in line, and 17 of them abandoned their anti-tax positions. The Senate agreed to a $1.3 billion tax increase, more than Warner had requested, and the House went along, a major victory for Warner.

By December 2004, the fiscal picture had changed. State government was facing a $1.2 billion surplus, and Warner called for more spending. He also sought a larger national profile. He became chairman of the National Governors Association, urged Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry to target Virginia (which Kerry did, until August), and advised other Democrats around the country about how to win support in rural areas and among conservative voters on culture issues. He was viewed as a potential presidential candidate in 2008, as a Democrat who would appeal to moderates. But in October 2006, he announced he would not run, citing the impact a national campaign would have on his family.

Then, when Sen. John Warner announced in August 2007 that he would retire from the Senate after five terms, Mark Warner’s next career move seemed obvious. He had no serious opposition for the Democratic nomination. On the Republican side, Jim Gilmore, Warner’s predecessor as governor, decided to get into the race. At the state Republicans’ nominating convention in June 2008, Gilmore barely prevailed after being challenged from the right by Delegate Robert Marshall because of Gilmore’s support for abortion rights in some cases. He only narrowly secured the nomination.

It turned out not to be a seriously contested campaign. Warner argued that Gilmore left the state in poor fiscal shape and that he had been able to turn things around. Warner won 65%-34%, losing only two counties in the Shenandoah Valley, two exurban Richmond counties, and two small independent cities. He got 2.37 million votes, the first candidate in Virginia history to win more than 2 million votes. (Democrat Tim Kaine became the second in his 2012 Senate race.) He won 69% of the votes in Northern Virginia, 68% in Tidewater, 64% in Richmond, and 62% in the rest of the state, running far ahead of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama even as Obama was carrying the state by six points. For the first time since 1970, when Harry Byrd, Jr. declared himself an independent, Virginia had two Democratic senators.

In the Senate, Warner lamented the adjustment that ex-governors face in becoming one of 100 legislators. His driven and frenetic personality has become a source of humor among his colleagues. In a “Secret Santa” gift exchange in 2011, Nebraska Republican Mike Johanns presented him with a large Energizer bunny. “Mark never stops,” Johanns said. In recounting his working closely with the laid-back Republican Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Warner told reporters in January 2013, “The way he starts each day is, ‘Well, Mark, did you take your Ritalin today?’”

Warner’s voting habits have put him in the political center. He has supported the Obama administration on some major legislation, but he also has joined Republicans in backing caps on discretionary spending. He called in 2011 for Virginia to become the first East Coast state to allow offshore drilling, which he saw as a pragmatic way to bring in jobs and new revenue. He was one of five Senate Democrats in June 2012 to vote in favor of taking up a failed GOP resolution to overturn a regulation cutting mercury and other toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants. Despite his “A” rating from the NRA, he said after the Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre that “the status quo isn’t acceptable” on guns.

Warner became best known for joining forces with Chambliss in leading a “Gang of Six” on budget issues in the hopes of putting the recommendations of the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction commission into legislation. To keep the group’s closed-door meetings from becoming too partisan, Warner reportedly would occasionally push a comic buzzer that sounded the message: “Bull---- detected. Take precautions.” By July 2011, as lawmakers faced a controversial increase in the federal debt limit, the Warner-Chambliss group had developed a $3.7 trillion deficit-reduction plan. Of that total, $2.7 trillion in cuts came from adjustments to Medicaid and Social Security. Meanwhile, federal revenues would be increased $1.1 trillion over 10 years through changes to tax deductions for home mortgage interest, charitable giving, and health care insurance. But Republicans remained resolutely opposed to any revenue increases, and the deficit-reduction “super committee” failed to make headway in addressing the deadlock between the parties. The gang’s proposal never became formal legislation, and the leadership of both parties paid the group scant attention.

Warner repeatedly expressed frustration over his inability to get a deal, especially after giving talks around the country on the subject. “In Washington there is no support group, or institutional structure, to support people doing the right thing,” he complained at a June 2012 summit in Richmond. When the lack of an agreement triggered steep automatic budget cuts in March 2013, he acknowledged at a meeting of defense and technology executives that Congress had “muffed this thing.” But he also pinned blame on the executives. “Every time there’s been efforts to try to build a broader coalition … most of y’all have said, ‘Well, I don’t want to piss off this guy or that guy or this chairman or that chairman,’’’ he told them.

In other bipartisan ventures, Warner and Tennessee Republican Bob Corker worked in 2009 and 2010 on ways to prevent financial institutions from becoming “too big to fail” as part of the Wall Street overhaul. Later in 2010, Warner circulated a proposal to let tax cuts for the wealthy expire and to use the money to finance additional tax cuts for small business and investment. He worked in 2012 with Republicans Marco Rubio of Florida and Jerry Moran of Kansas on legislation to encourage entrepreneurship and promote job creation.

In his early months in office, Warner was given the chairmanship of a Budget Committee task force on government performance. He advocated eliminating spending on 17 programs, from watershed infrastructure grants to brownfields redevelopment. His proposal won committee approval as part of a broader budget measure, but the full Senate never acted on it. On other issues, Warner pushed legislation authorizing the Federal Communications Commission to hold incentive auctions to free up the wireless spectrum. During the health care overhaul debate, he led 11 freshman Democrats in proposing a series of amendments intended to control costs and boost accountability of the new program.

After the 2010 elections, Warner had a chance to become part of the Senate leadership when he was offered the chairmanship of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. But he turned down the job, which would have required him to become much more of a partisan. He toyed with running again in 2013 for governor, which he called “the best job I ever had,” but opted against it.

Despite Warner's popularity and deep well of campaign funds, former National Republican Committee chairman Ed Gillespie decided to challenge him in 2014. Gillespie hoped that he might be able to sneak into office in a year in which Democrats nationally were expected to do badly. He came extremely close: Many of the voters who turned out at the polls were hard-core partisans who were unreceptive to the senator's centrist pitch and unfazed by Democrats' repeated attempts to brand Gillespie as a lobbyist and Beltway insider. Warner had to rely on the overwhelming Democratic votes of Northern Virginia to carry off a victory by less than 1 percentage point.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-2023

RSOB- Russell Senate Office Building Room 475
Washington, DC 20510-4606

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-2023

RSOB- Russell Senate Office Building Room 475
Washington, DC 20510-4606

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-2023

919 East Main Street Suite 630
Richmond, VA 23219

DISTRICT OFFICE

(804) 775-2314

919 East Main Street Suite 630
Richmond, VA 23219

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-2023

8000 Towers Crescent Drive Suite 200
Vienna, VA 22182

DISTRICT OFFICE

(703) 442-0670

8000 Towers Crescent Drive Suite 200
Vienna, VA 22182

DISTRICT OFFICE

(757) 441-3079

101 West Main Street Suite 4900
Norfolk, VA 23510

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-2023

101 West Main Street Suite 7771
Norfolk, VA 23510

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-2023

110 Kirk Avenue, SW
Roanoke, VA 24011

DISTRICT OFFICE

(540) 857-2676

129B Salem Avenue, SW
Roanoke, VA 24011

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-2023

180 West Main Street Room 235
Abingdon, VA 24210

DISTRICT OFFICE

(276) 628-8158

180 West Main Street Room 235
Abingdon, VA 24210

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Staff

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Abortion

Lauren Marshall
Legislative Correspondent

Agriculture

Caitlin Runyan
Senior Policy Advisor

Maggie Anderson
Staff Assistant

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Caitlin Runyan
Senior Policy Advisor

Maggie Anderson
Staff Assistant

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Samantha Newman-O'Gara
Legislative Correspondent

Milan Dalal
Senior Economic Advisor

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Caitlin Runyan
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Maggie Anderson
Staff Assistant

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Samantha Newman-O'Gara
Legislative Correspondent

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Samantha Newman-O'Gara
Legislative Correspondent

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Marvin Figueroa
Senior Policy Advisor

Lauren Marshall
Legislative Correspondent

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Ken Johnson
Legislative Assistant

Zach Lewis
Legislative Correspondent

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Caitlin Runyan
Senior Policy Advisor

Maggie Anderson
Staff Assistant

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Samantha Newman-O'Gara
Legislative Correspondent

Milan Dalal
Senior Economic Advisor

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Rosie Heiss
Senior Advisor for National Security and Foreign Policy

Govt Ops

Lauren Marshall
Legislative Correspondent

Maggie Anderson
Staff Assistant

Gun Issues

Nicholas Devereux
Legislative Counsel

Lauren Marshall
Legislative Correspondent

Health

Marvin Figueroa
Senior Policy Advisor

Charlie Arnowitz
Legislative Correspondent

Homeland Security

Rosie Heiss
Senior Advisor for National Security and Foreign Policy

Zach Lewis
Legislative Correspondent

Human Rights

Lauren Marshall
Legislative Correspondent

Immigration

Marvin Figueroa
Senior Policy Advisor

Rafi Martina
Senior Policy Advisor

Sean Sweeney
Legislative Correspondent

Judiciary

Nicholas Devereux
Legislative Counsel

Lauren Marshall
Legislative Correspondent

Labor

Maureen Downes
Tax Policy Advisor

Nicholas Devereux
Legislative Counsel

Medicare

Charlie Arnowitz
Legislative Correspondent

Military

Rosie Heiss
Senior Advisor for National Security and Foreign Policy

National Security

Rosie Heiss
Senior Advisor for National Security and Foreign Policy

Zach Lewis
Legislative Correspondent

Native Americans

Ken Johnson
Legislative Assistant

Privacy

Nicholas Devereux
Legislative Counsel

Science

Samantha Newman-O'Gara
Legislative Correspondent

Tax

Maureen Downes
Tax Policy Advisor

Meaghan Maher
Legislative Correspondent

Technology

Rafi Martina
Senior Policy Advisor

Sean Sweeney
Legislative Correspondent

Telecommunications

Rafi Martina
Senior Policy Advisor

Sean Sweeney
Legislative Correspondent

Trade

Meaghan Maher
Legislative Correspondent

Milan Dalal
Senior Economic Advisor

Transportation

Nicholas Devereux
Legislative Counsel

Lauren Marshall
Legislative Correspondent

Samantha Newman-O'Gara
Legislative Correspondent

Election Results

2014 GENERAL
Mark Warner
Votes: 1,071,283
Percent: 49.16%
Ed Gillespie
Votes: 1,054,556
Percent: 48.39%
2008 GENERAL
Mark Warner
Votes: 2,369,327
Percent: 65.03%
Jim Gilmore
Votes: 1,228,830
Percent: 33.73%
2008 PRIMARY
Mark Warner
Unopposed
Prior Winning Percentages
Governor: 2001 (52%)

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