Officials: Former Virginia Governor Mark Warner Plans to Seek Senate Seat

Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner intends to run for the Senate next year, Democratic officials said Wednesday, assuring his party a competitive race for a seat long in Republican hands.

Warner scheduled an e-mail announcement of his plans for Thursday. The seat is currently held by Republican Sen. John Warner, who recently said he will retire at the end of his current term after 30 years in office.

The officials who discussed former Gov. Warner's intentions did so on condition of anonymity, saying they did not want to pre-empt his announcement.

Monica Dixon, who heads Warner's political action committee, Forward Together, declined to comment on his plans.

Warner is one of a small number of prominent Democrats whom party officials have been recruiting for Senate races. In New Hampshire, former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen has not yet said whether she will challenge Sen. John Sununu, while former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey is considering making a comeback bid to replace a retiring Sen. Chuck Hagel.

Overall, the political landscape appears to favor Democrats, given public opposition to the war in Iraq, President Bush's poor approval ratings and the fact that Republicans must defend 22 of the 34 seats on the ballot next year.

Aside from open seats in Virginia and Nebraska, Republicans face a struggle for the seat of Colorado Sen. Wayne Allard, who is retiring. Sununu and at least three other incumbents face potentially strong challenges. They include Sen. Norm Coleman in Minnesota, Gordon Smith in Oregon and Susan Collins in Maine.

Sen. Warner's decision to retire assured a competitive race for his seat, and Rep. Tom Davis and former Gov. Jim Gilmore are potential Republican contenders for the seat.

Warner's term as governor ended in January 2006. A political moderate, he quickly turned his attention to a potential presidential campaign.

After raising more than $9 million for his political action committee, he ultimately decided not to run, saying it was not the right time for his family.