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John Warner Endorses Mark Warner (Updated)

(Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:45 p.m. | Former Virginia Sen. John Warner is crossing party lines to support Democratic Sen. Mark Warner’s re-election campaign this year.

Warner, a former five-term Republican senator, told the Associated Press on Monday he is backing his successor in the Senate over former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie.

Speaking later with CQ Roll Call, John Warner said he encouraged Mark Warner to seek re-election, citing the state’s need for seniority in the Senate.

“I’m not jumping my traces,” John Warner said. “I’m just exercising what I think is a responsible judgment, because Mark Warner is gaining seniority and stature, and has a proven ability to cross the aisle and make things happen.”

The two Warners faced off in a 1996 Senate race, with the incumbent holding on by a 5-point margin. After the loss, Mark Warner went on to win a term as governor in 2001, before running again for the Senate seat of the retiring John Warner.

This is the second time this cycle the former Republican senator has backed a Democratic Senate candidate. Warner contributed to the campaign of Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn, who is running for an open seat in Georgia.

Mark Warner used the situation to highlight his penchant to work with Republican senators, a record he will undoubtedly tout on the trail this fall given Virginia’s swing-state status.

“I have followed John Warner’s solid example by creating opportunities to reach across the aisle to solve problems,” Warner said in a statement. “I have worked hard to form personal relationships with other lawmakers from both political parties to win bipartisan support for our efforts to fix the budget and strengthen Virginia’s economy.”

A new development on the Republican side means Gillespie has one less opponent to worry about in his bid for his party’s Senate nomination.

Howie Lind, a retired Naval officer, told the Virginian-Pilot on Monday that Gillespie’s recent entrance into the race had made fundraising a major hurdle and forced him to end his Senate campaign.

“The financial resources just dried up,” Lind told the Hampton Roads, Va.-based newspaper.

Lind’s exit leaves just one other Republican vying for the nomination at the June 7 convention, financial consultant Shak Hill. But even before the latest development, party leaders had already expected Gillespie to emerge victorious, despite the unpredictable nature of conventions.

While Lind’s fundraising stumbled, Gillespie’s has, unsurprisingly, taken off. The Gillespie campaign said last week that it raised more than $300,000 since Gillespie announced his candidacy on Jan. 16. That’s the same amount Lind raised in his first six months on the trail.

Gillespie will need the cash. Mark Warner, who is seeking a second term, had more than $7 million in cash on hand by the end of December.

The race is rated Democrat Favored by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

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