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Warner represented Virginia for 30 years, from 1979 to 2009, and was its last Republican Senator as the Commonwealth has shifted to the left in recent years. He was followed by the current Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.), Who ran against him and lost in 1996. (The two are not related.)
“I am stunned by the loss of John Warner,” said Tim Kaine (D-Va.) In a statement on Wednesday. “Virginia has lost an unmatched leader and my family has lost a dear friend.”
Prior to serving in the Senate, Warner was a World War II and Korean War veteran and Secretary of the Navy under former President Richard Nixon. As a legislator warner was chairman of the Senate Committee from 1995 to 1999 and later chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee for several years.
Warner, who was seen as a respected, moderate personality in the Senate, showed at times a willingness to defend himself against his own party, including on important issues. The Virginia Senator turned down Robert Bork’s Supreme Court appointment and worked to undermine Oliver North’s 1994 Senate offer to remove Democratic Virginia Senator Chuck Robb. He also supported several gun control measures.
“How happy, how blessed I was,” said Warner in a five-page handwritten note to “my fellow Virgins” after announcing his resignation.
Despite being a Republican, Warner made waves when he broke ranks in 2014 to support his Democratic successor and sided with Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election. Warner also endorsed President Joe Biden just before Virginia’s Super Tuesday primary last year.
“There comes a time when I have to stand up and have my own views,” Warner said in his Clinton endorsement, adding that he was dismayed by Trump’s criticism of the military.
Warner was also the sixth of actress Elizabeth Taylor’s eight husbands. They divorced in 1982.
Their relationship arose as a result of Warner’s role in planning the US bicentenary celebrations ahead of his first Senate run.
Despite his military qualifications and marriage to a Hollywood star, Warner initially lost the GOP nomination to a more conservative candidate, Richard Obenshain, in 1978, but entered after Obenshain died in a plane crash returning from an August campaign freeze.