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12 former Southern senators join letter calling on current Senate to defend democracy

Southerners are part of a group of 44 former senators who penned an open letter in the Washington Post

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Twelve former Southern senators have joined an open letter calling on current senators “to be steadfast and zealous” in guarding democracy amid “serious challenges to the rule of law” flowing from investigations of President Trump and his administration.

“It is our shared view that we are entering a dangerous period, and we feel an obligation to speak up about serious challenges to the rule of law, the Constitution, our governing institutions and our national security,” wrote a bipartisan group of 44 former senators in the letter, which was published December 10 in the Washington Post.

The former senators cited a “convergence” between special counsel Robert Muller’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and additional investigations likely to be launched by the incoming Democrat-led House.

“We are at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our democracy and our national security interests are at stake, and the rule of law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently must be upheld,” they wrote.

“At other critical moments in our history, when constitutional crises have threatened our foundations, it has been the Senate that has stood in defense of our democracy. Today is once again such a time.”

The letter was signed by 32 Democrats, 10 Republicans and two independents who served in the Senate between the 1970s and 2015. Among the signatories were 12 Southerners, including 11 Democrats and a lone Republican, John Warner of Virginia. The list includes:

The seats of all of the Southern Democrats who signed the letter, except for Robb, are now in Republican hands. Warner’s seat is now held by a Democrat.

Democratic VP nominee Tim Kaine rules out 2020 White House run

Kaine tells Richmond newspaper he is content representing Virginia in the Senate

♦By Rich Shumate, Chicken Fried editor

virginia mugRICHMOND (CFP) — U.S. Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia says he is through with presidential-level politics and will not run for the Democratic nomination in 2020.

Tim Kaine

Tim Kaine

Kaine made those remarks in a November 17 interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, his first in-depth interview since he and Hillary Clinton went down to defeat on November 8.

“I want to run and serve in the Senate for a long time,” Kaine said. “I was really honored to be asked by Hillary, and it was a history-making race to be the first woman nominated. And for her to do well in Virginia and win the popular vote, that is all to her credit. And I was really proud to be part of it. But I think the Catholic in me likes to go to the place where there is the most work to be done.”

Kaine told the newspaper that he would like to emulate the career path of former U.S. Senator John Warner, who represented Virginia in the Senate for 30 years before retiring in 2009. Warner never sought the presidency.

Had Kaine been willing to seek the presidency in 2020, he would have been a leading contender on the Democratic side, given his name recognition from the 2016 race.

Kaine is up for re-election in 2018. While Republicans would likely make a charge at him, Virginia has been trending Democrat in statewide races, with the governorship and both U.S. Senate seats in Democratic hands.

The Clinton-Kaine ticket carried Virginia by 5 points. It was the lone Southern state that they won.

Kaine was the only Southerner to make the ticket of either major political party this year, although 10 Southerners unsuccessfully sought their party’s nomination, including two Virginians, former Democratic U.S. Senator Jim Webb and former Republican Governor Jim Gilmore.

Former Virginia U.S. Senator John Warner crosses party lines to endorse Hillary Clinton

Former Armed Services Committee chairman “distressed” by Donald Trump’s criticisms of the military

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

virginia mugALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CFP) — Former Republican U.S. Senator John Warner of Virginia has endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton for president, questioning Republican nominee Donald Trump’s ability to lead on national security issues and military affairs.

Former U.S. Senator John Warner

Former U.S. Senator John Warner

“You don’t pull up a quick text, like National Security for Dummies,” Warner said at a September 28 rally in Alexandria where he announced he would vote for Clinton in November. “You have to build on a foundation of experience how you will go forward in the leadership of this country.”

Warner, without mentioning Trump by name, took particular issue with Trump over his critical comments on the state of the U.S. military.

“It is not in shambles. It is not the admirals and the generals … in the rubble in the hallways of the Pentagon,” Warner said. “No one should have the audacity to stand up and degrade the Purple Heart, degrade military families or talk about the military being in a state of disaster.”

Warner’s remark about the Purple Heart, which is awarded to members of the military wounded in battle, stemmed from an August rally in Virginia during which a veteran gave Trump his medal. Trump then told the audience that he had always wanted a Purple Heart but “this was much easier.”

Warner, 89, is the longest serving senator in Virginia history, in office from 1979 until 2009, and was also Navy secretary during the Nixon administration. He spent more than six years as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, on which Clinton also served when she was a senator.

Warner lauded Clinton’s work on the committee, saying she was always well prepared and had one of the best attendance records among senators on the panel. He also said that the September 26 debate between Clinton and Trump showed that she was composed while he was not, despite Trump’s insistence afterward that he won the debate.

“The film speaks for itself. You can’t rewrite it. There it is,” Warner said.

The former senator also had kind words for Clinton’s running mate and fellow Virginian, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, who he said “exemplified what this country needs foremost — a man of unquestioned integrity.”

Warner was flanked at the rally by Kaine and the commonwealth’s other senator, Democratic Mark Warner, who is no relation to the former senator.

The endorsement of the popular Warner, who won 83 percent of the vote in his last re-election campaign in 2002, may help strengthen the prospects of the Clinton-Kaine ticket in Virginia, where polls show them with a lead.

Virginia has gone Democratic in the last two presidential elections, after going for the GOP candidate in 10 straight elections dating back to 1968.

Outside of his political career, Warner may be best known as the sixth husband of actress Elizabeth Taylor, whom he wed in 1976. They divorced in 1982.

Ed Gillespie’s main GOP rival drops out of Virginia U.S. Senate race

Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Warner is endorsed by his Republican predecessor, John Warner

♦By Rich Shumate,

virginia mugRICHMOND (CFP) — High-powered Republican political operative Ed Gillespie is one step closer to his party’s U.S. Senate nomination in Virginia after one of his two GOP rivals dropped out of the race.

U.S. Senator Mark Warner

U.S. Senator Mark Warner

Meanwhile, the Democratic incumbent , U.S. Senator Mark Warner, got a high-profile Republican endorsement from a one-time political rival, former U.S. Senator John Warner.

John Warner said Mark Warner (no relation) “crosses the aisle and makes things work,”

“We come from the old school,” John Warner said in a statement. “The Senate works best when there’s collaborative effort between the two parties.”

Mark Warner unsuccessfully challenged John Warner for his Senate seat in 1996 and replaced him when he retired in 2008.

Over on the Republican side, just two weeks after Gillespie’s entry into the race, Howie Lind, a former military officer from McClean, called it quits, saying his fundraising had dried up.

“The financial resources to continue this campaign for a statewide office are not available since Ed Gillespie has joined the race,” Lind said in a statement. “Statewide campaigns are very expensive, and financial backing corresponds directly to political strength and the ability to win on election day.”

Lind, who entered the Senate race last June, had raised more than $300,000 — a respectable amount for someone who has never held political office but just a fraction of the more than $7 million that Mark Warner has raised.

With Lind out of the race, Gillespie’s only GOP opponent is Shak Hill, a former military officer from Centreville, who, like Lind, is running as an outsider and seeking Tea Party support.

Virginia Senate hopeful Ed Gillespie

Virginia Senate hopeful Ed Gillespie

Though he, too, has never held elected office, Gillespie, 52, is a consummate Washington insider. He was a communications strategist for President George W. Bush’s winning campaign in 2000 and went on to serve as head of the Republican National Committee and a White House counselor.

In April 2012, after Mitt Romney was finally able to claim the Republican presidential nomination, he signed on as a senior adviser to the Romney campaign.

Gillespie also has a long association with Karl Rove, the Bush political consigliere who has frequently drawn the ire of the party’s Tea Party wing. He held Rove create Crossroads GPS, the super-PAC that has backed establishment candidates facing Tea Party insurgencies.

Gillespie’s entry into the Senate race sets up a class establishment-versus-Tea Party struggle within Republican ranks in the Old Dominion.

Unlike in most states, Republicans in Virginia select their nominees with a party convention, rather than a primary. That could level the playing field for an outsider candidate who can develop a strong cadre of supporters to turn out at the convention, which will be held in June in Roanoke.

Both The Rothenberg Political Report and Cook Political Report classify Warner’s seat as safely in Democratic hands. Obama carried Virginia twice, and Democrats swept all three of the state’s top offices in the 2013 elections for the first time since 1969,

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