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Bipartisan record of determined representation makes Mark Warner the best choice for U.S. Senate

One vote can define a career in the U.S. Senate. Consider Edmund Ross of Kansas, one of the senators in John F. Kennedy’s “Profiles in Courage,” who cast the deciding vote in the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson — and lost his seat as a result.

Ed Gillespie, the Republican Party nominee to represent Virginia in the U.S. Senate, believes Democratic incumbent Mark Warner should be defined by his 2009 vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act. The implementation of that deeply flawed legislation, which this newspaper opposed, caused considerable harm to thousands in the commonwealth who have lost their insurance coverage or are paying more for care.

But while we agree with Mr. Gillespie that Sen. Warner’s vote was a mistake, we believe it represents a single indelible stain on an otherwise strong record of bipartisanship and middle-of-the-road governance. And that is why the Daily Press today endorses Mark Warner for re-election to the U.S. Senate.

Mr. Warner proposes thoughtful solutions to the country’s most pressing problems. With the “Gang of Six,” he led a charge in 2011 in an attempt to break the gridlock in Washington and honestly confront the public debt. And he understands how to be an effective voice on behalf of the commonwealth.

Mr. Gillespie — a former chairman of the Republican Party and an advisor to President George W. Bush — agrees with Mr. Warner on many important issues of the day, from the federal deficit to the need for energy production and the Keystone pipeline. It makes little sense, then, to cut short the career of a moderate who has Mr. Warner’s extensive experience with Virginia, both as governor and senator.

We were intrigued by Mr. Gillespie’s health care plan, produced in detail a little more than two weeks ago as an alternative to Obamacare. He would retain popular features such as coverage for pre-existing conditions, but provide a combination of tax credits and increased competition to create a more market-based solution.

Even Republican moderates such as Congressmen Scott Rigell and Rob Wittman concede that it’s too late to kill the ACA, and that the best we can hope for is to moderate its excesses. Better to rely on Mr. Warner, working across the aisle, to restore some sense of sanity to this program.

Sixty percent of our budget is devoted to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and we need to honestly confront the need to reform those programs, particularly in light of our aging population. We need to ensure their future solvency to help the aged, while also making sure we reserve enough funds to invest in defense and in investments for the future such as education, research and infrastructure construction.

Not only does Sen. Warner understand that, he has been among those senators leading the charge for change. He supports the Simpson-Bowles plan, which proposed a 2-1 ratio of spending cuts to revenue increases — including reform of entitlement programs — in order to slash the deficit and lower the debt.

Unfortunately for Sen. Warner — and the nation — Majority Leader Harry Reid’s dictatorial control of the Senate has snuffed out opportunities for bipartisan compromise on the big issues facing the country. So while the incumbent has successfully advanced legislation to make government more transparent and won support for bills that improve Washington’s operations, the type of bold solutions that Sen. Warner espouses fail to reach the floor.

One might argue that a Republican, operating in a Senate under GOP control, might fare better. But we believe that a moderate, one with a proven record of working across the aisle, will be a better fit for Virginia, while providing a brake against the excess that comes to the surface when any political party has an overwhelming majority.

Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian Party nominee, offers an alternative option. A candidate for governor last year, Mr. Sarvis stresses his differences from the major parties, taking both to task for government spending run amok, excessive regulation and imperialistic foreign policy. But given his lack of campaign funds and public recognition, Mr. Sarvis stands no chance of being elected.

Ultimately, we prefer the road-tested and reliable Sen. Warner to his challengers.

We must register our disappointment that Sen. Warner was involved in trying to dissuade state Sen. Phillip Puckett from resigning in June. The ugliness of the indictment, trial and conviction of former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife should be a powerful deterrent to such behavior. We expect better from our elected officials — especially a former governor and current U.S. senator.

But while we view his ACA vote with disfavor, and urge him to seek all manner of opportunity to correct that deeply flawed law, we do not believe that one moment represents the measure of a career that has been, on balance, in favorable service to the commonwealth.

We therefore support Sen. Warner’s re-election bid and expect him to provide another six years of tireless service on behalf of our commonwealth.


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