Former Gov Trails In Home State

By John Celock

Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore’s quest for the Republican presidential nomination is not gaining strength in the state he once governed.

A Public Policy Poll released Wednesday shows Gilmore capturing the support of only one percent of Virginia voters in a GOP primary. Gilmore, who left the governor’s mansion in 2002, announced last week that he would enter the 17 person field for the Republican presidential nomination.

The poll showed that Gilmore tied South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum at one percent in Virginia. The quartet only led former New York Gov. George Pataki in the poll. Pataki, New York’s chief executive from 1995 to 2006, was polling at less than one percent in Virginia.

The poll showed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush leading in Virginia at 18 percent, followed by businessman Donald Trump and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at 14 percent and physician Ben Carson at 10 percent. The rest of the large GOP field polled in single digits behind Carson and ahead of Gilmore and company.

Gilmore has not sought elective office in Virginia since an unsuccessful 2008 U.S. Senate bid against former Gov. Mark Warner (D). Warner easily defeated Gilmore in that race 65 percent to 34 percent.

Gilmore made the Senate race following a brief 2007 bid for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. Gilmore dropped out of the 2008 presidential contest citing a lack of funding.

The 2008 race was Gilmore’s second foray in to national politics, following his one year stint from 2001 to 2002 as the chairman of the Republican National Committee during the first year of President George W. Bush’s administration. Gilmore’s tenure at the RNC coincided with his final year as Virginia’s governor. During his tenure at the RNC, Republicans captured only one of the three top races in the country in 2001 – the New York City mayor’s race – while Democrats were elected to succeed Republican governors in New Jersey and Virginia.

Gilmore was mostly well known statewide in Virginia at the height of his political career in the 1990s. Following two terms as the commonwealth’s attorney in Henrico County, Gilmore was elected state attorney general in 1993, a post he held until he stepped down in June 1997 to seek the governorship. In 1997, Gilmore defeated then Lt. Gov. Don Beyer (D) for the governorship. Virginia limits governors to one year terms.

In a twist, candidates who have faced off with Gilmore have seen a boost in Virginia politics. Warner was reelected to the Senate in 2014 and has been mentioned as a potential vice presidential nominee in 2016 or potentially seeking a return to the governor’s mansion in the future. Beyer, who served as U.S. ambassador to Switzerland during President Barack Obama’s first term, was elected to Congress in 2014 representing a northern Virginia district.