John W. Warner, a Republican who represented Virginia in the U.S. Senate for 30 years, endorsed Democrat Abigail Spanberger in her challenge to Republican Rep. Dave Brat in a close House race that has implications for control of the chamber.
Warner’s endorsement was the second time this week that the second longest-serving senator in Virginia history crossed the aisle in an endorsement. Earlier, he announced support for Democrat Leslie Cockburn in the 5th U.S. House District race against Republican Denver Riggleman to succeed Rep. Tom Garrett, a Republican who did not seek re-election.
Spanberger, a former CIA officer, is challenging Brat in the 7th District, which includes parts of Chesterfield and Henrico counties.
Warner, in a statement, said residents of the 7th should support Spanberger because Congress needs “well-qualified, exceptional people.”
“During her hard-fought campaign to represent the citizens of the 7th Congressional District, she has demonstrated a clear understanding of this part of Virginia. That’s important! For Virginia is a wonderfully diverse state,” his statement said.
“Further, she brings a strong understanding of the complex world beyond our nation’s shores and how that impacts the economy and jobs right here in central Virginia. Abigail has spent her career serving on the front-line to keep our country safe. If elected, she needs no “on the job training” in how to defend our fellow citizens and strengthen our economy and our national security.
Spanberger, in a news release, said she was honored to have the endorsement. “Although we have some differences of opinion, we both hold true our commitment to our country and Virginia.”
Warner served in the Senate from 1979 to 2009, including three stints as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
He had an independent streak that led to some high-profile splits with his party. In 1987 Warner was one of 15 Republicans who opposed Robert Bork, President Ronald Reagan’s pick for the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1994, Warner refused to back Republican Oliver L. North for the U.S. Senate, citing the former Marine colonel’s actions in the Iran-Contra affair.
Warner has endorsed candidates from both major parties in recent years.
Warner backed Republican George Allen’s U.S. Senate campaigns in 2006 and 2012. In 2013, he endorsed the campaign for attorney general of state Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg.
In 2014, he backed for re-election Sen. Mark Warner, the Democrat he had edged in Virginia’s 1996 Warner vs. Warner campaign for U.S. Senate.
Warner endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton and her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., in the 2016 presidential election. He has endorsed Kaine in his race this year against Republican Corey Stewart.
In 2017, Warner backed Republican Ed Gillespie for governor.