Mark Warner, Democrat Senator Who Narrowly Won in 2014, Faces Challenge From Former Navy SEAL

By Zachary Stieber

A Democrat Senator who barely won re-election in 2014 faces a fresh challenge from a former representative and Navy SEAL in Virginia.

Mark Warner (D-Va.) ended up with 49.1 percent of the vote in 2014, with Republican challenger Ed Gillespie garnering 48.3 percent. The final gap was around 18,000 votes.

The race was initially too close to count, reported NBC Washington, which called the margin “razor-thin.” While votes were still being counted, Warner declared victory.

Gillespie didn’t concede on election night but ultimately decided not to seek re-election and conceded three days later.

Scott Taylor to challenge Mark Warner
In this Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, file photo, then Virginia’s 2nd District Congressman Scott Taylor speaks during an interview in his campaign office in Virginia Beach, Va. Taylor says he’s running for U.S. Senate in Virginia, hoping to unseat Democratic Sen. Mark Warner. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

Now Warner, faces a fresh challenge from Mark Taylor, a former Virginia representative who served as a Navy SEAL during the Iraq War.

Warner, 64, a businessman, has been in office since 2008. He helped push the theory that President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia—a theory punctured by the report submitted by special counsel Robert Mueller—and even texted Adam Waldman, a lawyer for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and ex-British spy Christopher Steele in 2017.

Taylor, 40, said that Virginia residents want a “leadership change” and that “12 years is enough” for Warner.

“We have a leadership crisis in Virginia. Washington is broken. We need a fresh start in the Senate,” Taylor said on Fox & Friends this week, hitting Warner for falsely claiming President Trump was guilty of “traitorous activity” with Russia.

Taylor, who served as a U.S. Rep. from 2017 through 2019, noted that he has a history of working with Democrats, as each bill he introduced had a Democrat co-sponsor.

He said in a campaign video that he doesn’t trust many politicians. He started life as the son of a single mother who was in trouble with the law until a mentor helped him shape up.

Taylor said he planned to go to college after four years in the Navy but after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, he re-enlisted to serve the country. While he feels physical and emotional pain from his time in the war, “I will never regret the decision to serve this nation,” he said.

Taylor said on Twitter that he believes his entry to the race has drawn the attention of Democrats in the state.

Richard Burr and Mark Warner in Washington
Committee ranking member Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) (L) talks with committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Sept. 5, 2018, in Washington. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“Funny how Dems keep saying, he has no shot, no chance against Warner. But…they tweet nonstop & already spent PAC $ against us…we’ve been in 3 days! There’s a leadership crisis & Virginians are hungry for someone who actually gets things done. Race is on and all bets are off,” he wrote.

Taylor’s re-election campaign this year faltered when an investigation by The Virginian-Pilot found that dozens of fraudulent signatures were on petitions filed by his campaign, including some from deceased persons. A campaign staffer was later indicted on two counts of election fraud.

Taylor’s 2018 reelection campaign is still being investigated by a special prosecutor who brought those charges, reported the left-leaning Associated Press.

Prosecutor Donald Caldwell said in May that “what actually happened within the campaign headquarters is still a subject of investigation due primarily to the lack of cooperation of key individuals with the (Virginia State Police) investigator.”

Scott Taylor poses in the VIP Lounge during the 2017 Global Citizen Festival in Central Park in New York City on Sept. 23, 2017. (Noam Galai/Getty Images for Global Citizen)

Taylor told the outlet that the race will be close, saying his military background and moderate record on social issues would get support from Republican voters, including those who don’t support President Donald Trump.

Taylor hit Warner again over his link to the promotion of the Trump-Russia theory.

“He was a false prophet of Russia propaganda and the illusion of collusion,” Taylor said.

Taylor is the only Republican to announce a challenge for the seat as of yet.