Mark Warner Biography

(United States Senator from Virginia and Former Governor of Virginia)

Birthday: December 15, 1954 (Sagittarius)

Born In: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

Mark Warner is an American businessman and politician serving as the senior United States senator from Virginia since 2009. The second wealthiest member of Congress at $214.1 million worth, he is known for his involvement in telecommunications-related venture capital during the 1980s. He started volunteering in Democratic campaigns when he was attending college and gladly states that he “majored in Washington, D.C.” He served as Chair of Virginia’s Democratic Party between 1993 and 1995. Following a failed attempt at the U.S. Senate in 1996, he won the 2001 Virginia gubernatorial election and served as the 69th governor of Virginia from 2002 to 2006. He has been serving as the Vice Chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus since 2017, and after serving as the Vice Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2017-21, he was appointed its chair in 2021. He was expected to pursue the Democratic nomination in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, but declined as it would disrupt his family life.

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Quick Facts

Also Known As: Mark Robert Warner

Age: 69 Years, 69 Year Old Males

Family:

Spouse/Ex-: Lisa Collis (m. 1989)

father: Robert F. Warner

mother: Marjorie

children: Eliza Warner, Gillian Warner, Madison Warner

Born Country: United States

Political Leaders American Men

U.S. State: Indiana

City: Indianapolis, Indiana

More Facts

education: Harvard Law School (1980), George Washington University (1977), Rockville High School

Childhood & Early Life

Mark Robert Warner was born on December 15, 1954 in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States to Marjorie (née Johnston), a homemaker, and Robert F. Warner, an engineering safety inspector.

His family, which included his younger sister Lisa, moved several times and lived in Illinois before settling in Vernon, Connecticut, where he graduated from Rockville High School.

He was class president for three years at Rockville High School and hosted a weekly pick-up basketball game at his house, a tradition that he reportedly continues to this day.

He became interested in politics in the eighth grade because of his social studies teacher, Jim Tyler, who "inspired him to work for social and political change during the tumultuous year of 1968”.

In 1973, he entered George Washington University (GWU), where he was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society, and earned his Bachelor of Arts in political science in 1977. Warner, who graduated as the valedictorian of his class with a 4.0 GPA, was also the first in his family to graduate from college.

He had consciously applied to colleges in Washington to be near the nation’s political center, and during his time at GWU, worked on Capitol Hill in the office of U.S. Senator Abraham Ribicoff (D-CT).

He is particularly proud of serving as the youth coordinator on Ella Grasso's successful gubernatorial bid in Connecticut, becoming “the first woman elected a state governor”.

Back in Washington, he took a part-time job in the office of then-Representative Chris Dodd before serving as Dodd's senatorial campaign manager during his freshman year of law school.

In 1980, he graduated with a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School, where he also coached the school's first intramural women's basketball team.

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Business Career

While Mark Warner never practiced law, after completing his law degree, he took a job raising money for the Democratic Party based in Atlanta from 1980 to 1982.

He unsuccessfully tried his luck in a couple of business ventures in energy and real estate, after which he became a general contractor for cellular businesses and investors.

In 1982, following FCC policy change that established a lottery system for awarding cellphone licenses, he began applying for licenses on behalf of investor groups, negotiating a 5% stake for successful licenses.

By reselling his stakes at higher prices, which is an entirely legal practice, he reportedly made $150 million over 10 years before FCC reverted to an auction-based method of assigning licenses in 1994.

In 1989, he moved out of the cell phone business and started the investment and venture capital firm Columbia Capital Corp., and has been serving as its managing director ever since. Through it, he helped found or was an early investor in a number of technology companies, including Nextel, and co-founded Capital Cellular Corporation, building up an estimated net worth of more than $200 million.

Political Career

In 1989, Mark Warner served as campaign director for the successful gubernatorial campaign of Douglas Wilder, who became Virginia’s first African American governor.

He served as chairman of the state Democratic Party from 1993 to 1995, apart from serving on the Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board and attending monthly committee meetings of the Rail and Public Transportation Division.

He contested in the 1996 United States Senate election in Virginia against incumbent Republican John Warner (no relation) in what became known as "Warner versus Warner" election. While he lost to the incumbent by 52%-47%, he performed strongly in the state's rural areas, making the contest much closer than many pundits expected.

After spending years slowly building up a power base in rural Virginia, particularly Southwest Virginia, he campaigned as a moderate Democrat in the 2001 Virginia gubernatorial election. He spent $20 million, double of his Republican opponent Mark Earley, the state's attorney general, and defeated him and his Libertarian opponent William B. Redpath by securing 52.16% of the votes.

Warner, who once stated while buying tickets for his parents for their White House tour that he will “see the White House when I'm president”, decided not to run for president in 2008, prioritizing family. Instead, he sought to run to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retiring John Warner, who had become his good friend by then and even endorsed him crossing party lines.

With support from the elder Warner and most national Democrats, he held a 30-point pre-poll lead over his Republican opponent, fellow former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore, and defeated him by 65%-34%. It was the most lopsided margin for a contested Senate race in Virginia since Chuck Robb’s win in 1988 and resulted in two Democratic U.S. Senators from Virginia first time since 1970.

His margin of victory reduced considerably in his re-election bid in 2014 against Ed Gillespie, who had previously served as Counselor to the President under George W. Bush and chairman of the Republican National Committee. However, he was able to secure a bigger margin in 2020 when he was elected for a third term, defeating college professor and U.S. Army veteran Daniel Gade by 56%-44% vote.

Personal Life & Legacy

In 1989, Mark Warner married Lisa Collis, a Navy pilot’s daughter whom he had met at a keg party in 1984 when she was working at the World Bank following graduate work in public health.

The two spent their honeymoon in Egypt and Greece, during which period he became ill and was later found to have suffered a near-fatal burst appendix which took him two months to recover.

Nevertheless, he went on to work on Doug Wilder's gubernatorial bid immediately after recovery, and busy with managing the transition, he even missed a couple childbirth classes while Collis was pregnant with their first daughter.

He and his wife, who was the first Virginia first lady to use her birth name, live in Alexandria, Virginia, with their three daughters, Madison, Gillian, and Eliza, one of whom suffers from Juvenile Diabetes.

Trivia

Mark Warner has been hailed as a “contemporary Thomas Jefferson”, a businessman and reluctant politician who dabbles in farming and winemaking at his Rappahannock Bend farm. At his farm, he grows 15 acres of grapes for nearby Ingleside Vineyards and bottle a private Rappahannock Bend label that he offers at charity auctions.

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