tags: Targeted Races

Warner (Open-VA-SEN)

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RESULT: Mark Warner 64% – Jim Gilmore 35%  

The Race:

Democratic candidate Mark Warner is the favorite in the race to succeed long-time Republican Senator John Warner, who is retiring this year. The Republican candidate in the race is another former Virginia governor, Jim Gilmore. Gilmore was nominated at the GOP convention with 50.31% of the vote in a two-way contest, and Warner ran unopposed in the primary. [National Journal, accessed 9/17/08] According to the Cook Report, “A Warner-Gilmore race may well become a referendum on their gubernatorial administrations.” [The Cook Report, accessed 9/22/08] Gilmore is behind in polls and fundraising, and Warner is heavily favored to win the seat. [The Free Lance-Star, 9/19/08] New citizen voters are likely to make an impact in the state. [The New York Times, 9/18/08]

Early on in the race, immigration inspired an attack against Mark Warner. In a release titled “Marky Mark Flips on Immigration,” the National Republican Senatorial Committee accused Warner of changing his position on immigration. The release read, “According to WHSV-TV, Mark Warner ‘says the federal government needs to step up on enforcing illegal immigration. The U.S. Senate candidate says the federal government has been slacking for the last 15 years…Warner believes there needs to be sanctions if employers knowingly hired illegal immigrants.’ But now Warner is in his first race where he has to run on his record, and his record tells a very different story. As Governor of Virginia, Mark Warner amended legislation to give in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.” [NRSC Press Release, 1/11/08]

The Warner Position:

COMPREHENSIVE REFORMER. During a 2008 debate, Warner said he believed in tougher border security but also a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants if they got behind those already in line. [The Washington Post, 10/4/08] At an editorial board meeting in Woodbridge, VA, Warner said legal immigration played an important role in America, but he favored increasing border security and creating a system to make sure employers hired legal workers. Warner said, “I think the ultimate way you deal with the undocumented folks is to eliminate jobs… and that means an identity-validation system that with a swipe, you can check a person’s legal status.” [Star-Exponent, 10/5/08]

In a 2008 interview on his immigration position, Warner said, “We’ve got to enforce our immigration laws…It’s hypocritical of those who say they want immigration reform not to put the resources into improving the process.” When asked by the interviewer what specific policy initiatives he would support, Warner said, “Immigration reform has to be federal. It can’t be done piecemeal state-by-state…People who come here undocumented should go to the back of the line, they should pay a fine, they should learn English, but I don’t think this country can deport 12 million people. This is a prime example of why the system is broken. You need to have strong border security, but you also need a system that places a value on legal immigration…We also need to put tougher sanctions on employers who hire undocumented workers, but we also need to have a review of how we document legal workers.” [The Charlottesville Hook blog, 9/15/08]


Warner’s campaign website touts his accomplishments dealing with illegal immigration as governor of Virginia. “Recognizing the failure of the federal government to meet its commitments in curbing illegal immigration, Governor Warner took aggressive action to protect the integrity of state-issued ID documents and sharply limited the ability of illegal immigrants to access state-funded services.” Warner also provides a timeline of his immigration-related legislative accomplishments. “In 2002, Governor Warner signed legislation that closed a loophole that allowed notarized residency and identity statements to be used to obtain driver’s licenses…In 2003, Governor Warner signed legislation requiring proof of legal residency before obtaining or renewing a driver’s license. In 2004, Governor Warner approved legislation to allow state and local law enforcement officials to arrest and detains illegal immigrants already convicted of felonies…In 2005, Governor Warner signed legislation that banned illegal immigrants from receiving state benefits such as Medicaid and welfare.” [Mark Warner for Senate, accessed 9/18/08]

The Gilmore Position:

ENFORCEMENT MOSTLY. In a debate with Warner, Gilmore said illegal immigrants should be deported, because “People who are here illegally have to obey the law.” [The Washington Post, 10/4/08] In an interview, Gilmore said: “This is going to be a campaign about national security, about transportation, about education and about illegal immigration.” [The Associated Press, 11/20/07] Gilmore’s immigration position on his campaign website reads, “I am a descendant of immigrants who came to this country legally to seek the American dream. I believe that dream should remain attainable for those who obey the law. However, illegal immigration is costing Virginia taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars each year. As someone with experience dealing with homeland security, I know we must secure America’s borders and crackdown on employers who hire illegal immigrants if we’re going to stop the illegal immigration that is threatening our nation’s future.” [Jim Gilmore for Senate, assessed 8/19/08]

In an interview with Politico, Gilmore said, “Number one, I think we cannot have an amnesty. We ask the American people to abide by the law…And yet, if we send a message that we are going to do an amnesty, we are really sending a message to the American people that (some) people have to abide by the law and others don’t have to. I am not for that. I don’t believe there should be a path to citizenship automatically that should come out of this.” [Politico.com, 4/12/07]

In a Washington Times blog chat, Gilmore was asked his position on illegal immigration. Gilmore stated, “I believe we must secure our borders, as any sovereign nation would do. I believe we can not offer an amnesty again. I believe that employers must obey our immigration laws. I also would advocate a broad-based reform of our immigration laws in the future to address our workforce shortages.” [Washington Times, 7/23/08]


Virginia Senate