The Nov. 3 elections are just two weeks away, and races up and down the ballot are sprinting into their final stretch. Most voters are familiar with the two candidates running for president, but fewer may be acquainted with the candidates a little closer to home. Virginians will be casting their votes for senator on Election Day as well, choosing between incumbent Mark Warner (D) and Daniel Gade (R).
Senator Warner was previously the Governor of Virginia from 2002-2006, and before that was a co-founder of the cellular technology company Nextel. Warner was first elected to the Senate in 2008, at which point Virginia’s most recent Republican Senator retired. Warner serves as the Vice Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, and sits on the Committee of Finance, the Committee on the Budget, the Committee on Rules and Administration and the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. He also co-founded the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus and is a member of the Moderate Democrats Working Group.
Gade is a retired Colonel in the U.S. Army. While serving in Iraq, Gade was injured and forced to amputate his right leg. He received many military honors during his service, including two Purple Hearts. Upon his discharge, Gade returned to college, and earned a PhD in Public Administration. He taught at West Point from 2011-2017 and currently teaches at the American University in Washington, D.C.
Despite their differing experience and party affiliations, the two candidates share a number of priorities, both being relatively moderate in their respective parties. Both Warner and Gade prioritize fighting for military veterans, reducing the national debt and budget deficit and promoting innovation in the private sector.
In a debate hosted at Norfolk State University on Oct. 3, the moderator asked about their stances on the racial turmoil over the summer–and in a stance that’s rare amongst his party, Gade had expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement, alongside Warner. Both candidates supported reducing the militarization of police and limiting qualified immunity protections for police officers. Neither support calls to defund the police–in fact, both suggested that increased funding was necessary. The clearest distinction offered on the matter in their debate was that Warner supports a ban on chokeholds, a move that Gade does not.
In another stance that breaks with party rhetoric, Gade lists the environment as one of his priorities on his campaign website, and suggests that he would be eager to work with Democrats on measures to help mitigate the effects of a changing climate. He has denounced divisive rhetoric, imploring Americans to focus on a shared value of liberty rather than policy differences. Other values listed on his campaign site include instituting congressional term limits, lowering government spending and stopping insider trading on Wall Street.
Warner highlights concerns about information security online and the spread of misinformation, expanding and preserving access to health care, advocating for civil rights and expanding services to those who live in rural Virginia, including access to broadband internet and improved infrastructure.
According to the Virginia Public Access Project, Gade has raised about $3.5 million dollars for his campaign, while Warner has raised approximately $14 million. Political forecasting models by the Cook Political Report, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and FiveThirtyEight all predict that Warner will keep his Senate seat by a large margin, declaring Virginia a ‘safe’ Democratic Senate seat. A Republican has not won an election for either of Virginia’s Senate seats since 2002.
On the national level, neither presidential candidate has campaigned extensively in Virginia. President Trump visited Newport News on Sept. 25, just a day after Jill Biden visited Virginia Beach. Joe Biden himself has yet to visit the state. In this final sprint to the polls, advertisements have begun cropping up on local stations, but most funding for advertisements has been directed to nearby swing states like North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
However, the race has been heating up on national broadcasts. Biden and Trump participated in a televised debate on Sept. 29–a debate that didn’t seem to do either of them many favors with viewers.
Sophomore Abigail Peterson, vice chair of the College Republicans organization on campus described her overall view of the debate succinctly: “I think that overall, it was horrifying.” She described her frustration with hearing oversimplified arguments that avoided the questions asked by the moderator. Sophomore David Browne concurred, saying that in the future, “I would like to see it be more civil, like less of them interrupting each other and more actually talking about the issues.” Browne characterized the debate as “really messy” and “not well run” on the part of the moderator and organizers.
Senior Andrew Taylor expressed a different perspective. “I think it was a good debate if you can even have one when it comes to American politics. We received some views of both sides, even the ones we didn’t care about.” But asked who he thought won, Taylor’s views fell more along the lines of Peterson and Browne’s. “Neither side won the debate. Both acted childish at one point or another and I think if we had a loser, it is probably the American people.”
By Brianna Sandy