Democratic Sen. Mark Warner opts out of Virginia gubernatorial race

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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Virginia Sen. Mark Warner will not run again for governor of his home state, he announced Tuesday.

The Democrat, who served as governor of Virginia from 2002-2006, was viewed as a potential favorite in the state’s 2013 gubernatorial race. A Quinnipiac poll released last week showed him leading the two Republican contenders — Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli — by about 20 points each.

“Over the last year, a lot of Virginians – Democrats, Republicans, and independents – have approached me and asked that I consider running for governor a second time,” Warner said in a statement Tuesday.

“Believe me,” he added, “being governor was the best job I ever had. But I have a different job now — and it’s here, in the United States Senate.”

Warner’s decision leaves former Democratic National Committee chair Terry McAuliffe as the most prominent Democrat running at the moment.

Virginia’s current governor, Republican Bob McDonnell, cannot run for re-election due to term limits.

Warner now looks poised to play a big role in the fiscal cliff negotiations this year. Warner is a member of the “Gang of 8” — a group of Democratic and Republican senators working to help negotiate a bipartisan deal to avoid the fiscal cliff.

“When I asked Virginians to hire me as their senator, I made a promise to come to Washington to try to be a problem solver,” Warner said in his statement.

“It’s what I’ve been trying to do through my bipartisan work to fix our debt and deficits. And you know, I’m actually more optimistic by the day that we’ll be able to get it done,” he said.

“But even if we avoid the fiscal cliff, we still have much more important work to do here in Washington: immigration reform, improvements to education. We still need a 21st century energy plan, and we still have a lot more work to do to strengthen the economic recovery,” he went on.

Virginia is one of two states, along with New Jersey, that will hold a gubernatorial election in 2013.

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Alexis Levinson