Three candidates besides former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie filed to run against Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerVirginia Dems want answers on alleged detention center abuse Wray defends FBI after 'sobering' watchdog report Top Dems: IG report shows Comey's actions helped Trump win election MORE (D-Va.) before the state's Feb. 1 deadline passed on Saturday.

Gillespie is viewed as the heavy favorite for the nomination heading into the race, but the trio of challengers means the establishment favorite will have at least some competition for the Republican nomination. Gillespie will have to win nomination in a June statewide party convention, so he'll have to make sure to turn out his supporters for an event often dominated by conservative activists.

The other candidates who filed to run are unknown to most, and the handful of conservative activists looking to recruit a serious challenger to Gillespie didn't land anyone of note. They include Tony DeTora, a former staffer for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), Air Force veteran Shak Hill, and small-business owner Chuck Moss.

If Gillespie can avoid serious competition in the convention, as appears likely, that would improve his chances against Warner, Virginia's most popular politician. Early polling has found Warner with a double-digit lead in the race.