By Jill Palermo, Fauquier Times
Former Sen. John Warner, who spent 30 years representing Virginia as a Republican, is lending his support to Leslie Cockburn, a Democrat and former investigative journalist vying to represent the 5th District in the U.S. House.
Warner endorsed Sen. Tim Kaine, also a Democrat, in his race against GOP nominee Corey Stewart in September. Warner appeared with Cockburn and Sen. Mark Warner (D) at a fundraiser at Kinloch Farm in The Plains Saturday.
“I’m still a Republican. I’m going to tell this gang, I’m still a Republican,” the elder Warner said in an interview before the event. “You can’t take that away from me. But you’ve got to have the courage to do what’s right for the country and what’s right for your state.”
Warner, 91, took out his iPhone to scroll through Cockburn’s platform as he talked about why he’s publicly backing Cockburn over her Republican opponent, Denver Riggleman.
Warner called Cockburn “an exceptional candidate” and said he agreed with her positions on health care, education and “commonsense gun laws.”
“I’ve got a closet full of guns,” said the Navy and Marine Corps veteran who served in both World War II and the Korean War. “I know guns pretty well. And there’s things we’ve got locked in, they’re just wrong. I don’t know how were going to break that one.”
Warner, who spent years in Fauquier County while he served as secretary of the U.S. Navy and later as senator, spoke of his love for the state. After attending Sen. John McCain’s funeral, Warner said he revised his will to dictate his ashes be “spread over the valley” in Virginia.
Warner said his endorsement of Kaine is rooted in his lifelong friendship with Kaine’s father-in-law, former Virginia Gov. Linwood Holton, the first Republican elected Virginia governor in the 20th Century. Warner said he also worked closely with Kaine when he was in the Senate and Kaine was governor to secure federal funding for the Woodrow Wilson bridge and Metro’s silver line.
Warner acknowledged the political tide might be turning in Virginia but called the state “fundamentally conservative.”
“The state stands for firm principles and leans a little bit on the progressive side,” he said.
Cockburn, who served on the board of the Piedmont Environmental Council for a decade, said her strong support for land conservation and environmental-protection issues has won her support among rural Virginia’s more moderate Republicans.
“There are many people who would consider that their very top issue,” Cockburn said of conservation. “And that’s why they would gravitate to me.”