Former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie has decided to run against Sen. Mark WarnerMark WarnerWeek ahead: Rival encryption efforts clash on Capitol Hill Kaine, Brown, Perez on Clinton’s list of possible VPs: report Encryption commission bill picks up more backers MORE (D-Va.), according to The New York Times.
The Times reports Gillespie has told senior Republicans that he will challenge Warner and might announce his candidacy as early as next week.
His decision gives Republicans a top-tier candidate against Warner, a popular politician in his home state.
"I've been asking folks and talking to people about advice, that kind of thing. I've got until Feb. 1st," he told The Hill, referencing Virginia's filing deadline.
When asked if he had been telling people he was definitely in or not, he again demurred.
"I've been having conversations with folks. People are asking what my intentions are. I'll let you know as soon as I'm ready to announce a decision one way or the other," he said before ending the call.
Gillespie has been publicly weighing a bid since early December, and most strategists have expected him to run for some time.
He'll bring some major assets to the uphill race against Warner, whose once-sky-high approval ratings have slipped slightly in some recent polls. Gillespie is telegenic and folksy, has long ties to Virginia races and could raise huge sums for a campaign, closing the spending gap against the well-funded and personally wealthy Warner, who has $7.1 million in the bank.
However, his deep Beltway connections could hurt his ability to contrast himself with Warner, a former governor who remains popular in the state.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee wasted no time in ripping Gillespie.
"Virginians don’t want to elect a DC shadow lobbyist like Ed Gillespie who epitomizes the reckless and irresponsible Republican economic agenda. Gillespie won't work to strengthen Virginia's economy, cut the nation's debt or work to find common ground in Washington the way Mark Warner has done, and Virginians know that," DSCC Executive Director Guy Cecil said in a statement.
—This post was updated at 6:50 p.m.