News & Politics

Webb Puts Warner Aides in Pickle

The surprise announcement that James Webb would run for the Senate—coming four months before the June 13 primary—left Warner backers split.

Never say never? James Webb, secretary of the Navy under President Reagan, said in February that he’d like to challenge George Allen in November for Virginia’s US Senate seat.

In 2005 Webb was mentioned as a candidate for the Democratic nomination—despite his 18 years of flirting with the idea of running for office as a Republican. Last fall he nixed feelers from Virginia Democrats.

So the early support went to Harris Miller, a former Northern Virginia tech executive and a close friend of former governor Mark Warner’s.

The surprise announcement by Webb—coming four months before the June 13 primary—left Warner backers split.

Car magnate/Warner adviser Don Beyer is a strong Miller backer. Warner’s 2001 spokesperson, Mo Elleithee, is a Miller consultant, and he has brought along Warner’s pollster, Geoff Garin.

Webb has anted up for the services of Steve Jarding and Dave “Mudcat” Saunders, who jointly masterminded Warner’s rural strategy in 2001.

Warner is officially neutral in the race, but it’s in his interest to see Allen hurt. Warner and Allen are both possible presidential nominees in 2008, and a bruised—or defeated—Allen would be far weaker.

Webb has an edge in name recognition over Miller, though Miller appears to be better organized. Webb will get little love from Chuck Robb’s former staffers thanks to his 2000 endorsement of Allen.

Allen, for his part, may be more vulnerable than he appears: Half a million new Virginia residents have never seen Allen’s name on a ballot.