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Mark Robert Warner (born December 15, 1954) is an American politician, businessman, and the Junior Senator from the Commonwealth of Virginia. He is a member of the Democratic Party. Warner is the immediate former governor of Virginia and the honorary chairman of the Forward Together PAC. Warner delivered the keynote address before the nation at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
Mark Warner's experience as a Congressional staffer and Democratic Party fundraiser in the 1980s prompted his involvement in telecommunications venture capital.
In 2006, he was widely expected to pursue the Democratic nomination in the 2008 U.S. presidential elections; however, he announced in October 2006 that he would not run, citing a desire not to disrupt his family life. Warner was considered to be a potential vice presidential pick, but upon receiving the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate he announced that he "will not accept any other opportunity."
He currently serves on the board of National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. Warner is also rumored as a potential 2012 Democratic Party contender for the nomination.
Early life and career
Warner was born in Indianapolis, Indiana; he is the son of Robert and Marge Warner, and is the older brother of Lisa Warner. He grew up in Illinois, and later in Vernon, Connecticut, where he graduated from Rockville High School. He attributes his interest in politics to his eighth grade social studies teacher, Jim Tyler, who "inspired him to work for social and political change during the tumultuous year of 1968." Warner was class president for three years at Rockville High School and hosted a weekly pick-up basketball game at his house, "a tradition that continues today."
He majored in political science at The George Washington University, earning his Bachelor of Arts in 1977 with a 4.0 GPA. He was valedictorian of his class at GW and the first in his family to graduate from college. At GW he had worked on Capitol Hill to pay for his tuition, riding his bike early mornings to the office of U.S. Senator Abe Ribicoff, Democrat from Connecticut. When his parents visited him at college, he obtained two tickets for them to tour the White House; when his father asked him why he didn't get a ticket for himself, he replied, "I'll see the White House when I'm president." Warner attended Harvard Law School, where he coached the school's first intramural women's basketball team and graduated with his Juris Doctor in 1980. He has never practiced law.
In the early 1980s, Warner served as a staff member to U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd, also a Democrat from Connecticut. He later used his knowledge of federal telecommunication law and policies as a broker of mobile phone franchise licenses, making a significant fortune. According to one source, this knowledge was gained while working as fundraiser for Democrats. As managing director of Columbia Capital Corporation, he helped found or was an early investor in a number of technology companies. He was one of the early investors in Nextel, co-founded Capital Cellular Corporation, and built up an estimated net worth of more than $200 million.
Warner married Lisa Collis, who he had met in 1984 at a keg party in Washington, D.C., in 1989. While on their honeymoon in 1989 in Egypt and Greece, Warner became ill; upon returning home, doctors discovered he had suffered a near-fatal burst appendix. Warner spent two months in the hospital recovering from the illness. During her husband's tenure as governor, Collis was the first Virginia first lady to use her maiden name. Warner and Collis have three daughters, Madison, Gillian and Eliza.
Warner involved himself in public efforts related to health care, telecommunications, information technology and education. He managed Douglas Wilder's successful 1989 gubernatorial campaign, served as chairman of the state Democratic Party and ultimately made his own bid for public office, unsuccessfully running for the U.S. Senate in 1996 against incumbent Republican John Warner (no relation) in a "Warner vs. Warner" election. Mark Warner performed strongly in the state's rural areas, making the contest much closer than many pundits expected.
He currently serves on the board of National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. He is also rumored to be a possible contendor for the 2012 Democratic nomination.
69th Governor of Virginia
In 2001, Warner campaigned for governor as a moderate Democrat after years of slowly building up a power base in rural Virginia, particularly Southwest Virginia.
He defeated Republican candidate Mark Earley, the state Attorney General, with 52.16 percent, a margin of 96,943 votes. Warner had a significant funding advantage, spending $20 million compared to Earley's $10 million. Warner also benefited from dissension in Republican ranks after a heated battle for the nomination between Earley, backed by religious conservatives, and then-Lt. Gov. John H. Hager, some of whose supporters later openly backed Warner. In the same election, Republican Jerry Kilgore was elected attorney general, and Democrat Tim Kaine was elected lieutenant governor.
In his campaign for Governor in 2001, Warner said that he would not raise taxes. After he was elected, in 2002, Warner drew upon a $900 million "rainy day fund" left by his predecessor, James S. Gilmore, III. and, in 2002, Warner campaigned in favor of two regional sales tax increases (Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads) to fund transportation. Virginians rejected both regional referenda to raise the sales tax in 2002. In 2004, Warner worked with Democratic and moderate Republican legislators and the business community to reform the tax code, lowering food and some income taxes, and increasing the sales and cigarette taxes. Warner's tax package effected a net tax increase of approximately $1.5 billion annually. Warner credited the additional revenues with saving the state's AAA bond rating, held at the time by only five other states, and allowing the single largest investment in K-12 education in Virginia history. Warner also entered into an agreement with Democrats and moderate Republicans in the Virginia Senate to cap state car tax reimbursements to local governments, which had the effect of increasing car taxes in many localities.
Warner's popularity may have helped Democrats gain seats in the Virginia House of Delegates in 2003 and again in 2005, reducing the majorities built up by Republicans in the 1990s. Warner chaired the National Governors Association in 2004-2005 and led a national high school reform movement. He also chaired the Southern Governors' Association and was a member of the Democratic Governors Association. In January 2005, a two-year study the Government Performance Project, in conjunction with Governing magazine and the Pew Charitable Trust graded each state in four management categories: money, people, infrastructure and information. Virginia and Utah received the highest ratings average with both states receiving an A- rating overall, prompting Warner to dub Virginia "the best managed state in the nation."
Kaine and Kilgore both sought to succeed Warner as Governor of Virginia. (The Virginia Constitution forbids any governor from serving consecutive terms; so Warner could not have run for a second term in 2005.) On November 8, 2005, Kaine, the former mayor of Richmond, won with 52% of the vote. Kilgore, who had resigned as attorney general in February 2005 to campaign full time and who had previously served as Virginia Secretary of Public Safety, received 46% of the vote. Russ Potts, a Republican state senator, also ran for governor as an independent, receiving 2% of the vote. Warner had supported and campaigned for Kaine, and many national pundits considered Kaine's victory to be further evidence of Warner's political clout in Virginia, as well as a signal of his viability as a presidential candidate.
On November 29, 2005 Warner commuted the death sentence of Robin Lovitt to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Lovitt was convicted of murdering Clayton Dicks at an Arlington pool hall in 1999. After his trial in 2001, a court clerk illegally destroyed evidence that was used against Lovitt during his trial, but that could theoretically have exonerated him upon further DNA testing. Lovitt's death sentence would have been the 1,000th carried out in the United States since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment as permissible under the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution in 1976. In a statement, Warner said, "The actions of an agent of the commonwealth, in a manner contrary to the express direction of the law, comes at the expense of a defendant facing society's most severe and final sanction." Warner denied clemency in 11 other death penalty cases that came before him as governor.
Warner also arranged for DNA tests of evidence left from the case of Roger Keith Coleman, who was put to death by the state in 1992. Coleman was convicted in the 1981 rape and stabbing death of his 19-year-old sister-in-law, Wanda McCoy. Coleman drew national attention, even making the cover of Time, by repeatedly claiming innocence and protesting the unfairness of the death penalty. However, DNA results announced on January 12, 2006, seemed to confirm Coleman's guilt.
2008 United States Senate election
While on October 12, 2006, Warner ruled out a 2008 presidential bid, Warner declared on September 13, 2007 that he would run for Senate in 2008, following an announcement nearly two weeks prior by current Senator John Warner (no relation) that he would not seek re-election.
Warner immediately gained the endorsement of most national Democrats. He briefly had a primary opponent, Julien Modica, but Modica failed to qualify by the filing deadline. He held a wide lead over his Republican opponent, fellow former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore, for virtually the entire campaign.
Warner delivered the keynote address at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
In a Washington Post/ABC News Poll dated Wednesday, September 24, Warner was up 30 points over Gilmore.
In the November election, Warner defeated Gilmore in a rout, taking 65 percent of the vote to Gilmore's 34 percent. Warner carried all but four counties in the state—Rockingham, Augusta, Powhatan and Hanover.
Warner's victory means Virginia has two Democratic Senators for the first time since Harry Byrd, Jr. left the Democrats to become an independent (while still caucusing with the Democrats) in 1970.
- United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
- United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
- United States Senate Committee on Rules and Administration
- United States Senate Committee on the Budget
Warner grows 15 acres (61,000 m2) of grapes for Ingleside Vineyards at his Virginia farm; Ingleside bottles a private label that Warner offers at charity auctions.