Seal of the U.S. Senate
Seal of the U.S. Senate

In the race to represent the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States Senate, incumbent Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) is challenged by Doctor Daniel Gade (R). Warner was first elected to the Senate in 2008 and is in his second term.

Each of the fifty states have two seats in the Senate, for a total of one hundred seats. There is no representation, voting or non-voting, for U.S. territories or the District of Columbia. Senators serve six-year terms, and elections are held on a staggered schedule with roughly one-third of the Senate up for election every two years. This year, thirty-three seats are in contention, with an additional two up for special elections.

The Republican Party currently holds a 53-45 majority over the Democratic Party in the Senate. Two seats are held by independents who caucus with the Democratic Party, giving the Democrats an effective 47-seat minority. Currently, both of Virginia’s Senate seats are held by Democrats.

Incumbent: Mark Warner (D)

Sen. Mark Warner

Incumbent Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) stands as the Democratic Party nominee to represent Virginia in the U.S. Senate. He is nearing the end of his second term.

Warner holds a political science degree from George Washington University and a law degree from Harvard Law School. He is an entrepreneur and was a major investor in cellular and telecommunications businesses, where he amassed a significant fortune. He was among the earliest major investors in FleetCall, the company that later became Nextel Communications, which merged with Sprint in 2005. According to Roll Call’s latest list, Warner is the seventh richest member of Congress and the first richest Senator with a net worth of about ninety million dollars.

Warner made his first attempt at elective office in 1996 when he unsuccessfully challenged Senator John Warner (R-VA) (no relation). In 2001 he was elected Governor of Virginia, serving one term (Virginia’s constitution prohibits governors from serving multiple consecutive terms). He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008 and has served there ever since.

As Virginia’s governor, Warner was a pragmatic moderate who cooperated with Republicans in the state legislature. He was well liked by both left-wing and moderate Virginians, and even by many conservatives. He promised to bring this same pragmatic moderation to the Senate during his 2008 campaign, and he won easily—a 65-34 landslide over former Governor Jim Gilmore (R-VA). He even earned the Off on a Tangent endorsement, which is usually more likely to go to Republicans and Libertarians than to Democrats. In that endorsement, I wrote, “Warner was an imperfect but effective leader who was able to bring Democrats and Republicans to the table on a number of critical issues. I have no doubt he will do the same in Washington.”

I was wrong. He didn’t. And in sixteen years of writing political endorsements in every race and ballot issue before me, there is no endorsement I regret more in hindsight than Warner’s. The man who was a moderate and well-liked governor seems to have been absorbed into the hard-left Democratic Party machine in Washington. This is, as I said six years ago, “a political betrayal of the highest order.”

The fiscal conservatism with which he governed the state gave way to votes with his party on every record-setting deficit spending bill to come before him during the Obama presidency (of course he conveniently becomes fiscally conservative again whenever Republicans propose absurd deficits). He voted for the disastrous Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as “ObamaCare,” which led to many thousands of Virginians losing access to the insurance plans and doctors they were told they could keep, and to skyrocketing premiums for the middle class. Warner would not even support small amendments to ObamaCare that would have helped protect religious liberty and the rights of the unborn.

Since joining the Senate, Warner has consistently voted against the human right to life, against free speech rights for groups, and against religious liberty. He has, however, been less radical with regard to the right to keep and bear arms . . . he is hardly a staunch defender of the human right of defense, but he has been far less adversarial toward it than many of his colleagues. For this he deserves some credit. But he has continued to shift more and more in-line with a radicalizing national party as time goes on.

Not only has Warner largely abandoned his former moderation, but he has also abandoned his former willingness to cooperate across party lines. He has gone all-in with the polarization of the Congress. He has supported his party’s leftward lurch, its penchant for throwing baseless accusations at the president, and its tacit advocacy for violence and riots in our cities. Warner earned my respect as governor . . . and completely lost it in the Senate.

Daniel Gade (R)

Dr. Daniel Gade

Doctor Daniel Gade (R) stands as the Republican Party nominee to challenge incumbent Senator Mark Warner (D-VA).

Gade is a retired U.S. Army Colonel who served more than twenty years in the armed forces and earned many decorations, including the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, and two Purple Hearts. While serving in Iraq, he was twice injured by enemy fire, the second injury leading to the amputation of his right leg, more than forty surgeries, and a year in the hospital.

He earned a PhD in public administration and policy from the University of Georgia and taught courses at the U.S. Military Academy (West Point). He has also served on several national advisory councils. Since his retirement, he has taught at American University. If elected, this would be Gade’s first time holding elected office.

Gade breaks his policy positions into four areas: limited government, free markets, national defense, and individual liberties and civil rights. Details are thin, at best . . . only a one paragraph summary of what he believes in these four areas, and literally nothing about other topics.

On the key human rights issues, he acknowledges and defends religious liberty, free speech, and the right to keep and bear arms. On the right to life—the first and foremost human right—his website is curiously silent, though other sources report that he also acknowledges this right. He also recognizes that powers not given to the federal government by the constitution are properly reserved to the states or the people (cf., Tenth Amendment). On economic matters, he supports typical Republican policies that support business and impose low taxes and minimal regulation. Notably, he favors free trade, though the Republican Party has become more protectionist under President Donald Trump (R). It is nice to see that some Republicans still understand that free trade is good.

Regarding national defense, Gade also breaks with some elements of his own party. In particular, he points out—correctly—that Congress has the authority to declare war, not the president. For decades, presidents from both parties have asserted an unconstitutional authority to commit troops without approval from Congress. Indeed, Congress has not declared war since World War II. All wars since then have either operated under congressional approval short of a declaration of war (which is probably, but not certainly, constitutional), or have had no congressional approval at all (clearly unconstitutional). Gade says that he would attempt to reassert Congress’s authority and limit military excursions to those that are clearly necessary.

Beyond this, in the absence of clear guidance from Gade’s website or campaign, we must assume that he will typically vote the Republican party line. Once again, I must point out that candidates should not assume that people will vote for them because of their party appellation or because they tick a few key boxes. Each should earn our votes with detailed policy positions.

Yes, it is often enough for a candidate to acknowledge the key human rights when their opponent denies them. That alone can make these choices relatively easy. But still, candidates should take the time to let the voters know where they stand on a broad range of issues . . . because there are people out there who don’t care about human rights (believe it or not) but may vote for a candidate based on their position on some more obscure topic. Just a little free advice for Gade and any other political newbies out there.

Conclusion

Virginia deserves better than Senator Mark Warner (D). He was a good governor, but he has been an increasingly left-wing, partisan member of the Senate. Like many of his colleagues, he seems to spend more time sniping at the president or going on wild Russian goose chases than legislating. And when he does legislate, he does so in a way that is contrary to human rights and contrary to good governance.

The right to life, the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, and the right to keep and bear arms are not negotiable. Warner has failed to defend these, whether out of true opposition to them or just an inability to separate himself from his radicalizing political party.

Doctor Daniel Gade (R), like so many other candidates, has not said enough. He has not said what he believes about, say, infrastructure funding. He has not said what he believes about changing or replacing the Affordable Care Act (“ObamaCare”) that his opponent helped foist upon us. On countless topics we are left to read between the lines, assuming from his support for a limited federal government that he will oppose federal involvement in many of these things.

Despite this, Warner’s active opposition to our most fundamental human rights makes it very easy to vote against him. I endorse the election of Doctor Daniel Gade to represent Virginia in the U.S. Senate.