Gilmore enters Senate race, setting up fight with Warner

Confirming what had been expected for months, former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore (R) officially announced his candidacy for the state’s open Senate seat on Monday.

Gilmore is the first major GOP candidate to enter the race for retiring Sen. John Warner’s (R) seat. Should he win his party’s nomination, he will almost surely face former Gov. Mark Warner (D), who enters the race as the prohibitive favorite.

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In a release, Gilmore said he was running for the Senate “because I want to be one of those leaders who call on the spirit that is common in all of us and use it to restore our country for the benefit of our people and in the eyes of the world.”

Gilmore, whose long-shot presidential bid folded in July, offered a signal of his strategy against his fellow former governor, suggesting he will rely on his experience on national security and illegal immigration and will hit Warner for raising taxes.

He is also a former Republican National Committee chairman and former state attorney general. In 1997, he defeated then-Lt. Gov. Don Beyer 56-43 to become governor. Limited to one term, Warner succeeded him in 2001. Gilmore has also led a commission that reported to Congress on the issues of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

A Warner spokesman said the candidates will offer a clear choice for voters.

“Do they want to be represented by someone with a record of fiscal irresponsibility and extreme partisanship, or do they want a U.S. senator with a proven record of bringing people together to get results and create real change?”

spokesman Kevin Hall said.

The path to the GOP nomination was apparently cleared for Gilmore last month when Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) announced that he would not run for Senate. Davis, a confidant of John Warner, has eyed the Senate for years but decided the situation wasn’t right.