Ed Gillespie, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, announced Thursday that he will challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Warner.
Despite Warner's inherent advantages in this swing state, Gillespie's entrance gives Republicans a competent opponent who will be able to raise money and make the race at least one to keep an eye on this year. In a video statement, Gillespie wasted no time in criticizing the incumbent over his fiscal record in the Senate and support for Obamacare.
"I’m running for Senate because the American Dream is being undermined by policies that move us away from constitutional principles of limited government and personal liberty," Gillespie said.
Gillespie is a connected former lobbyist, political strategist, top Hill staffer and White House aide. He helped elect former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell in 2009 and served for the last four years as chairman of the Republican State Leadership Committee.
He faces an uphill climb against Warner, a popular former governor who is seeking a second term in the Senate. Warner ended 2013 with $7.1 million in cash on hand.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee defended Warner and went directly after Gillespie's lobbying background in a statement reacting to the announcement.
"The truth is that Mark Warner is recognized by both Democrats and Republicans as a leader in the Senate in working across party lines to achieve common sense solutions, and Virginians won’t be fooled by the negative campaign of Gillespie and his special interest allies," DSCC deputy executive director Matt Canter said.