ARLINGTON, Va. – A Republican state legislator announced Saturday he will not run for a U.S. Senate seat from Virginia next year, leaving former Gov. Jim Gilmore uncontested for the GOP nomination.
Del. Christopher B. Saxman, R-Staunton, said he is forming a federal political action committee, but will not use it to seek the seat of retiring Republican Sen. John Warner in 2008.
Another potential rival to Gilmore, Del. Robert G. Marshall, didn't foreclose the slim possibility that he might run.
Saxman said time constraints the January start of the 2008 General Assembly would place on his ability to raise money figured into his decision.
"A bid for federal office in 2008 would require me to raise money during the upcoming General Assembly session," Saxman wrote in remarks prepared for Virginia GOP leaders and activists at the party's annual retreat, known as the Advance.
State laws forbid legislators to raise money for state offices while in regular session. Although it doesn't apply to candidates for federal office, Saxman said that using the exception would violate the spirit of the law.
"In modern campaigns for federal office and with our Party's nominee being selected in early June, this is a tactical disadvantage that I am not willing to ask my family and supporters to try to overcome," he said.
Saxman pondered a race as the state GOP, reeling from statewide losses over the past six years, struggles to unite behind a common ideological platform for the 2008 Senate and presidential races. Ardent social conservatives and anti-tax activists and the party's business-friendly moderates have quarreled for years over the direction of the party.
Had he run, Saxman would have commanded Gilmore's attention through June's nominating convention in Richmond while Democratic former Gov. Mark R. Warner was free to campaign unchallenged within his own party.
One potential GOP rival to Gilmore, U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis of Fairfax County, announced in October that he would not run after the state party chose to pick the nominee in a convention, where pro-Gilmore conservatives would easily dominate, rather than a primary.
That leaves only Marshall, the House's most outspoken and consistent opponent of abortion and gay rights, as the only GOP obstacle for Gilmore — and a distant one at that.
Marshall skipped the Saturday forum where Saxman and Gilmore spoke to travel with his son to Ohio, but a representative read a 1,000-word message from Marshall that took jabs at both men while neither committing himself to the race or ruling it out.
"Why break up the Reagan coalition by nominating a candidate who does not support the Republican Platform's call to protect human life from its beginning," Marshall wrote, a jab at Gilmore for his support for abortion during the first eight weeks of a pregnancy.
Marshall alluded to Saxman as someone who "endorses gay agenda `domestic partner' benefits," legislation Saxman supported that had support from business and corporate interests. And, in a seeming plug for himself, the puckish and outspoken Marshall urged the party to nominate a candidate "unafraid of being criticized by the big liberal media."