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Former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore

Former Gov. Jim Gilmore says he is running for president and plans a formal announcement in the first week of August.

Gilmore, 65, Virginia's governor from 1998 to 2002, broke the news late Tuesday in an exclusive telephone interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

He said he does not think any other Republican candidates have addressed what he considers the vital national security and economic concerns facing the nation.

"I don't think we're addressing the threat to the country," Gilmore said. He added: "I bring to the table experience that others don't have."

Gilmore, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer, was governor during the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. He later headed the Gilmore Commission, a congressional panel that advised Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush on domestic capabilities for terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction.

The former governor said he is particularly concerned about "the emergency internationally," citing not just the so-called Islamic State, but Russia's ventures in Ukraine and China's moves in the South China Sea.

He also said he believes President Barack Obama's economic policies have undermined what should be a "foundation of strength" for the nation.

Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio are expected to enter the GOP contest this month. In August Gilmore would become the 17th prominent Republican in the field, not counting Mark Everson, former IRS commissioner under President George W. Bush.

"Unless he can get into the debates that begin August 6, this is going to be a short or ineffectual candidacy," said Larry Sabato, head of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. "And all the polls I've seen so far have him at the 1 percent level or below."

Gilmore said that in announcing in early August he is not seeking a bounce that might put him into the first Republican presidential debate, which Fox News Channel will host Aug. 6 in Cleveland.

In order to qualify for that debate, a candidate must be in the top 10 of an average of the five most recent national polls, as of Aug. 4.

Gilmore said those rules will reward "the most flamboyant," and "the most theatrical" GOP candidates.

"It's not possible for me to make the debate" under those criteria, Gilmore said.

Instead, he notes that the New Hampshire Union Leader plans to hold a forum for presidential candidates the same night and that he hopes to participate.

"Apparently, he's going to concentrate on New Hampshire. Like Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich and others, it's the early voting state he thinks he has the best chance to win," Sabato said.

"The Granite State is strongly anti-tax, and of course Gilmore is best known for 'no car tax'," Gilmore's slogan during his successful 1997 campaign for governor.

Gilmore, who served as chairman of the Republican National Committee from January to December 2001, briefly sought the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, but dropped out in July 2007, citing a lack of funding.

He then lost Virginia’s 2008 U.S. Senate race to Democrat Mark R. Warner by 31 percentage points.

He is now president and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank.

Asked what's different about his 2016 bid, Gilmore said: "I think it's different because the times are different."

"The economic challenges are clearer" and "the international challenges much more serious," he said.

As for campaign organization, Gilmore said he has "people on the ground in New Hampshire". He said the venue of his early August announcement "remains to be seen."

Gilmore, who was born in Richmond, is the fourth candidate with Virginia ties to enter the 2016 presidential contest.

Jim Webb, a Democrat who represented Virginia in the U.S. Senate from 2007 to 2013, announced his bid Thursday. Republican Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, lives in Fairfax County. Republican Rick Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, was born in Winchester.

Then-Gov. L. Douglas Wilder briefly sought the 1992 Democratic presidential nomination.

Warner, who succeeded Gilmore as governor, considered a run for the 2008 Democratic nomination. He made a number of trips to Iowa and New Hampshire before announcing in October 2006 that he would not run for president.

As for Gilmore's 2016 bid: "He's a long shot," Sabato said. "I won't say he's the longest of long shots because there are people running who have never held public office at all. But Governor Gilmore shouldn't put his house up for sale. That's my best advice."

acain@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6645

Twitter: @AndrewCainRTD

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