Former U.S. Sen. John W. Warner, R-Va., is endorsing Republican Ed Gillespie in Virginia’s governor’s race, breaking his string of Democratic endorsements in recent elections.
Warner, a Republican who represented Virginia for 30 years, endorsed Gillespie’s opponent, U.S. Sen Mark Warner, D-Va., in 2014.
In last year’s presidential race, he endorsed the Democratic ticket of Hillary Clinton and U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, the first time he had backed a Democrat for the White House.
“I’ve served in office with ten governors of Virginia, and I know what makes an effective one,” Warner, 90, said in a written statement. “I strongly support Ed Gillespie for governor in this election because I know he has the character, integrity, experience and ideas to be a strong leader for our great commonwealth.”
The endorsement was expected to be formally announced before Tuesday’s debate in Northern Virginia between Gillespie and Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam.
Warner has not been deeply involved in Virginia politics since his retirement in 2009, but the endorsement could bolster Gillespie’s pitch to centrist swing voters.
In a statement, Gillespie called Warner “one of the most well-respected and revered leaders in Virginia history.”
“He is a model of servant leadership who has served our commonwealth and our country with distinction,” Gillespie said. “I am proud to earn his endorsement, and I look forward to his ongoing input on how we can best create jobs, raise take-home pay, help people lift themselves out of poverty, improve our public schools, and ease traffic congestion.”
A former head of the Armed Services Committee, Warner took a swipe at President Donald Trump, then the GOP nominee, last year when he announced that he would back Clinton because he believed she was better qualified to lead the nation’s military. Warner said he was “distressed” by Trump’s portrayal of the military. While they may need modernization, Warner said at the time, America’s armed forces are not “in shambles.”
“Loose lips sink ships,” Warner said. “Got that, Trump? Loose lips sink ships.”