Alumnus campaigns for Senate

More than 30 years after moving into a room in Thurston Hall, GW alumnus and former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner hopes to move into the Senate office buildings this January.

Warner, a Democrat, is favored to beat Republican Jim Gilmore in the November election for one of the Virginia Senate seats and return to D.C. The 53-year-old graduated from GW in 1977 before attending Harvard Law School.

“I have several fond memories from my years at GW,” Warner wrote in an e-mail to The Hatchet. “Most of them are social, rather than academic. Like the parties we used to have in the Thurston Hall dorm.”

Warner, who served as the Virginia governor from 2002 to 2006, is ahead of Gilmore by 20 points or more in recent polls.

Before beginning his bid for the Senate seat, Warner nearly launched a presidential campaign in 2006, potentially aided by former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg.

“I was on the verge of finishing up at GW and I told him it would be fun to help run a campaign,” Trachtenberg said.

The former University president said he knows Warner both socially and professionally. Warner served on the Board of Trustees during Trachtenberg’s presidency.

“He’s very clear about what he’s committed to. He can also be very amusing,” Trachtenberg said, referring to Warner’s jokes about failed telecommunications investments during his ultimately successful business career.

Warner, who is campaigning with Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama this week in Virginia, gave one of the keynote addresses at the Democratic National Convention in August. Trachtenberg praised Warner’s speech, but he said he can be even more inspiring.

“It was a good workmanlike speech,” Trachtenberg said. “He’s a great American.”

Although Warner cemented his fortune as one of the original investors in Nextel, he jumped hurdles to become the first member of his family to graduate from college. While he credits public school, the government’s student loan program and supportive parents, Warner said he worries about the cost of higher education.

“The promise of a college education is increasingly becoming too expensive to pursue,” he said.

Warner said he hopes student voters will vote for him in the election, but he noted that introducing himself to college students has been a challenge in his senatorial campaign since most students do not live in Virginia.

“I have really enjoyed getting to meet these younger voters,” Warner said. “And I am hopeful that young people will have a strong showing at the polls this November.”

Through campaigning, Warner has found that college students are particularly concerned about education costs, energy policy and America’s standing in the world. If elected, he said he plans to tackle these problems by building a bipartisan group of what he calls “radical centrists” in the Senate.

“While these challenges may seem daunting, I believe they also present unique opportunities for our country if we can work together as Americans,” Warner said.

He added, “The challenges we face as a nation demand quick and effective action and I think building those relationships will be critical.”

Warner’s centrist appeal has been fundamental to his campaign and is one of several characteristics that his friends cite as central part of his personality.

“He is an extremely approachable person,” said Russ Ramsey, chairman of the GW Board of Trustees.

Ramsey credited him with helping expand the Virginia campus during his time as a Board member.

He said, “Mark believes in the power of partnerships.”

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