When the then underdog Mark Warner, whose only experience in political life had been to chair the Democratic Party of Virginia and manage the successful campaign of Doug Wilder for governor, had the courage in 1996 to take on Senior Senator John Warner in his re-election bid, Mark Warner’s bumper sticker read, “Mark, not John.” While the phrase may have helped voters differentiate the two candidates who are not related, it was not enough to cause voters to change their senator. Republican Senator John Warner went on to serve a total of 30 years in the United States Senate, the second-longest of any Virginian. Mark Warner went on to be elected governor of Virginia in 2001 and ran in 2008 to succeed Senator John Warner when he retired.
Too often overlooked in times of political rancor is the admiration and respect that develops among persons of different political parties even though they may differ on policy issues. Such was the case with the two senators Warner. As governor, Mark Warner regularly consulted with then-Senator John Warner to the advantage of the Virginia economy particularly as it related to the military presence in Virginia. When Democrat Mark Warner had a strong challenge to his Senate seat in 2014, retired Republican Senator John Warner endorsed him for re-election over his challenger who had been chairman of the Republican National Committee.
The two men have tremendous political experience between them and a moderate, pragmatic approach to resolving issues. It is no surprise that both have endorsed passage of Amendment #1 on the ballot this year to end political gerrymandering. Former Senator John Warner said, “the passage of Amendment 1 is essential to achieving this goal and to further strengthen our state’s political institutions. This referendum was drafted by a bipartisan group of volunteers from all walks of life and every corner of Virginia in order to give average citizens a stronger voice in the important process of redistricting.”
Senator Mark Warner told the Richmond Times Dispatch that he has already voted for the amendment. He said, “I believe in nonpartisan redistricting, and it’s an improvement over our current broken redistricting system. Voters should choose their elected leaders, not the other way around.” Virginia’s other United States Senator, Tim Kaine, who also served as Lieutenant Governor and Governor of Virginia supports Amendment #1 as does Congressman Don Beyer who was also Lieutenant Governor
While there is opposition to the amendment by those who see a loss of partisan political power if the amendment passes, there is broad support among others including Common Cause, the Brennan Center for Justice, Princeton Gerrymandering Project, Campaign Legal Center, AARP Virginia, ACLU, Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, League of Women Voters, Virginia League of Conservation Voters, and political scientists in Virginia’s colleges and universities. The editorial boards of the Washington Post and the Richmond Times Dispatch and all major newspapers in Virginia have endorsed it.
While there have been suggestions that a better amendment could be written, no one in the nearly four decades that I have worked on this issue has come forward with specific language that has the broad support of this one. I urge your vote for its passage. Send questions or comments to me at [email protected]