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Poll favors Warner if he runs for governor

BY CHELYEN DAVIS

In Virginia, the end of a presidential campaign season means the start of another—the next year’s statewide campaigns.

Virginia and New Jersey are the only states with off-year governor’s races. Virginia will also elect a new lieutenant governor and attorney general next year.

Given how modern campaigns work—and how long they last—candidates have been lining up for those three jobs for months now. Already five Republicans are running for lieutenant governor; former state Sen. Jeannemarie Davis made her candidacy official on Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, a new poll on next year’s governor’s race showed that if he chooses to run, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner has a hefty lead over the two Republicans already in the governor’s race.

Quinnipiac University’s poll shows Warner at 53 percent to Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling’s 33 percent, and 52 percent to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s 34 percent.

Warner has been coy about his plans, not ruling out a run for the office he held from 2002 to 2006. He told reporters last week that he would announce a decision by Thanksgiving.

But he also said he is still “obsessed” with federal debt and deficit issues—Warner has been one of a bipartisan group of senators trying to find ways to slow federal spending. After Democrat Tim Kaine’s winning of Virginia’s other Senate seat last week, Kaine said he hopes Warner will stay in the Senate because he has played an important role in building bridges between members of the two parties there.

Warner might also find less to encourage him deeper in the poll; while he leads the two Republicans, only 18 percent of those polled said they would prefer to see him run for governor, rather than stay in the Senate.

If he does run, Warner would face competition for the nomination from Democrat Terry McAuliffe. McAuliffe has been saying for months that he wanted to run if Warner didn’t; last week he told supporters in an email that he’s definitely in the race.

Without Warner in the mix, McAuliffe polls at 38 percent to Bolling’s 36 percent, and 41 percent to Cuccinelli’s 37 percent—all pretty close.

McAuliffe made a bid for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2009, losing to Creigh Deeds (who then lost to now-Gov. Bob McDonnell), but he has never held an elected office in the state. In a release accompanying the poll, Quinnipiac assistant polling director Peter Brown said McAuliffe right now “is benefiting from his Democratic identification, which reflects the party’s positive image in the state after President Barack Obama’s victory and the president’s 52 percent job approval.”

The majority of voters polled said they don’t know enough about McAuliffe, Cuccinelli or Bolling to have an informed opinion about them.

Cuccinelli and Bolling have been rivals for many months, with both having long ago announced they would run for governor. It hasn’t been a particularly friendly rivalry, either—after last Tuesday’s elections, Bolling told Politico that the election results show Republicans in Virginia need to focus on electability, rather than nominating an “ideological firebrand.”

Davis became the fifth Republican to join the lieutenant governor’s race—candidates who have already announced are Stafford County Supervisor Susan Stimpson, Prince William Del. Scott Lingamfelter, state Sen. Steve Martin and Prince William County Supervisor Corey Stewart.

Additionally, the Virginian–Pilot reported that E.W. Jackson, who ran for the Republican nomination for the Senate earlier this year, is contemplating a run. Pete Snyder, a businessman who was director of Republicans’ Virginia Victory campaign this year, also is considering joining the race.

On the Democratic side, only former state Secretary of Technology Aneesh Chopra has announced a run for lieutenant governor; state Sen. Mark Herring and former U.S. Attorney Justin Fairfax have announced for attorney general. Former Del. Ward Armstrong is said to still be mulling a run. Democrats will nominate their candidates by primary.

Republican candidates for attorney general so far are state Sen. Mark Obenshain, Del. Rob Bell and Fairfax court clerk John Frey, all of whom have been running for months.

Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028

cdavis@freelancestar.com

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