Virginia Senate race sees underdog GOP challenger confident despite uphill battle

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Virginia’s Senate race is between a well-known Democratic incumbent and an underdog Republican political newcomer, but the challenger is confident he can close in down the stretch.

“I’m down 9, so I intend to gain 10,” Daniel Gade, a retired Army officer turned university professor told Fox News Tuesday, referring to the percentage points his campaign’s internal polling shows him behind Sen. Mark Warner.

That polling also shows Gade trailing Warner by a smaller margin than President Trump is lagging behind Democratic 2020 presidential nominee Joe Biden – a sign the campaign sees as favorable in a state Hillary Clinton won in 2016.

FILE – In this Aug. 21, 2020, file photo, Republican Daniel Gade, who is running against Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., holds a gathering at Hardywood Brewery in Richmond, Va. (Joe Mahoney/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

“I want the president to win, but if he doesn’t, I still need to win Virginia,” Gade said.


To do that, he would need to overcome Warner, a former governor seeking his third term in the U.S. Senate, where he is the top Democrat on the Select Committee on Intelligence.

He won by wide margins in his gubernatorial race and his first Senate election, but beat GOP challenger Ed Gillespie by less than 1 percent in 2014.

FILE – This Wednesday July 25, 2018 file photo shows Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., vice-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

That midterm election year saw a strong showing for Republicans around the country as the party took back control of the Senate.

Gade said his numbers show he is out-performing Gillespie at this stage in the race and he pointed to polls from Roanoke College and Virginia Commonwealth University that show climbing support after being down by more than 20 percent at the start of September.

A spokesperson for Warner’s re-election campaign did not immediately respond to a Fox News request for comment, but the senator recently told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that while he’s confident in his record, he doesn’t “take anything for granted” and is campaigning hard to once again earn voters’ support.

Still, no Republican candidate has won a statewide election in Virginia since 2009, according to the paper.

And fellow Democratic Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s running mate in the 2016 presidential election, easily held on to his Senate seat by a 16-point margin in 2018 against GOP challenger Corey Stewart.

Gade, who studied environmental science at West Point, has billed himself as a different kind of candidate. He says he’s a career public servant, as opposed to a politician.

He received two Purple Hearts during Operation Iraqi Freedom and lost his leg to a roadside bomb, resulting in dozens of surgeries. He remained in the Army until he retired as a lieutenant colonel in 2017.

Gade also earned a Ph.D. in public administration and policy and served on advisory committees under Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, offering insight on issues affecting disabled Americans, prosthetics and veterans, among others.

Daniel Gade and former President George W. Bush (Gade For Virginia)

One of his key campaign issues is his proposed Stop Insider Trading Act, which would require members of Congress, upon taking office, to put their holdings in a blind trust so that they can’t profit off of information that is unavailable to the public – which he said is “appalling.”

After a blockbuster New York Times report on President Trump’s taxes, he said the legislation should also apply to the executive branch, including the president, vice president and cabinet-level officials.

“None of those folks should be profiting on nonpublic information,” he said.

Warner and Gade met last week in their first debate, where one major topic was the future of the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare.

(Gade For Virginia)

Gade, whose injuries in Iraq left him with a preexisting condition, argued that market-friendly changes to the health care system can still include rules that ensure coverage for people with preexisting conditions.

Warner countered that protecting the Obama-era health care law is the best way to guarantee health care for millions of U.S. citizens.


“The ACA’s not perfect, but 20 million Americans got health care coverage,” Warner said. “It protects three and a half million Virginians, including my daughter, with preexisting conditions.”

They have two more scheduled before Election Day. The next is Oct. 3.

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