RICHMOND, Va. – Mark Warner is trading the venture capital life for an adventure in the Capitol. Following his election-day victory, Warner will be leaving his corner office at Columbia Capital LLC on the Potomac and head for the Governor’s mansion in Richmond.
Columbia’s former managing director (VCJ, September, p. 33) defeated State Attorney General Mark Earley by about 100,000 votes, a 52% to 47% margin.
Warner was the first Democrat to win a major election in Virginia since U.S. Senator Chuck Robb defended his seat in 1994. He found success running on his moderate policies and business experience.
The previous Republican-controlled administration tarnished itself by failing to agree on a budget last year. Warner capitalized on their fiscal instability, using his business experience as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist as a selling point.
Warner successfully avoided Virginia’s typical Democrat traps, such as gun control, abortion and tax hikes. Following the attacks of Sept. 11, Earley attempted to capitalize on his own 14 years in public service. However, Warner stuck with his business-builder message, and Earley’s experience message failed to close the lead Warner held throughout the campaign.
Based on his business contacts, Warner accumulated broad support among usual Republican supporters and independent voters in the State.
Warner raised $18 million to Earley’s $10.5 million. Unlike a previous campaign that he almost completely bankrolled himself, Warner only contributed $5 million to this effort.
Warner concentrated heavily on the state’s Republican rural areas, supporting issues like hunters’ rights and advertising the campaign on a NASCAR truck series race car.
Warner also spoke heavily about bringing technically skilled jobs to rural Virginia and encouraging the region’s youth to find stimulating jobs without having to leave their regions. With other local business people, he set up five regional VC funds to serve rural areas and stimulate business growth.
Julia Spicer, communications director at Columbia Capital, said she thought the public responded well to Warner’s business background and the idea that Mark gets things done.
On the day following the election, Warner named his transition team, including former U.S. Congressman L.F. Payne, Virginia Commonwealth University Professor George Harris and Tim Reid, the Venus Flytrap from WKRP in Cincinnati and business partner of Warner.
By law, Virginia governors only serve one four-year term, so the industry may see more of Warner again in 2006.