RICHMOND, Va. — Jim Gilmore, Virginia's former tax-slashing Republican governor, on Tuesday took the first step in a long-shot bid for the presidency.
Gilmore filed papers with the Federal Election Commission in Washington to form the Jim Gilmore for President Exploratory Committee, said his aide, Matt Williams.
Citing the absence of what he considered a true conservative, Gilmore said in interviews last month that he would assess his own chances for a presidential run.
Gilmore was elected governor in 1997 promising to cut the property tax that local governments in Virginia levy on personal cars and pickup trucks.
He becomes the sixth Republican to form an exploratory committee for 2008. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Arizona Sen. John McCain, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson and Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas also have taken the initial step.
Within weeks after he was sworn in as governor, Gilmore pushed his popular car tax cut through a legislature then controlled by Democrats. The incremental phaseout obligated Virginia to reimburse city and county treasuries dollar-for-dollar for car tax revenues they lost.
Critics warned that the reimbursements created an enormous state spending program that would eventually wreck the state's finances.
In 2001, after a recession cut deeply into Virginia tax collections and with reimbursements to localities around $700 million annually and soaring, Gilmore rebuffed efforts by fellow Republicans in the state Senate to stop the car tax phaseout.
The resulting legislative stalemate and GOP infighting left Virginia unable to reconcile its budget for the first time ever, and helped Democrat Mark R. Warner upset Republican Mark L. Earley, whom Gilmore had supported.
Warner also blamed Gilmore and the car tax for budget deficits that topped $6 billion in subsequent years.
Gilmore was among the earliest supporters of Texas Gov. George W. Bush's 2000 presidential quest, and Bush rewarded Gilmore by appointing him chairman of the Republican National Committee. Within a year, however, Gilmore left the job after disagreements with senior White House staff.
Little known outside Virginia, Gilmore headed a commission Congress appointed in 1999 to investigate the threat terrorism posed to the nation.
In its report, finished one week before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the commission recommended creating a Cabinet-level office to battle terrorism at home, better intelligence sharing among federal agencies, better federal cooperation with local and state authorities, a better medical response to chemical or biological attacks and better border security.
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