Image: Mark Warner and his wife, Lisa Collis
Gerald Herbert  /  AP
Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner and his wife, Lisa Collis, react as an elderly voter is bumped into by back peddling cameramen as they arrive to vote at the Lyles Crouch School in Alexandria, Va., on Tuesday.
updated 11/4/2008 11:18:22 PM ET 2008-11-05T04:18:22

On a rainy Saturday in January 2006, Mark Warner walked quietly from the podium where his successor had just been sworn in as Virginia's governor.

But the hyper-caffeinated, get-it-done-today Warner wouldn't stay away from politics for long.

On Tuesday, he beat another former governor, Republican Jim Gilmore, to claim a seat in the U.S. Senate.

At the end of his term, three-fourths of Virginians approved of Warner's performance, the highest mark for any governor in 20 years. Were Virginia not the only state to forbid consecutive terms for its governors, he easily would have won re-election.

Instead, he explored a run for president before abruptly dropping out "to have a life for a little while."

Warner has a personal fortune of about $200 million thanks to shrewd early investments in cellular licenses. But wealth and success did not come easy.

He grew up in Indiana, Illinois and Connecticut as the son of a Nixon Republican who worked in risk management for an insurance company.

After getting a law degree from Harvard, Warner moved to Washington, where he earned as little as $350 a week as a Democratic fundraiser but developed a skill for networking.

In the early 1980s, Warner learned that the government would give away licenses to radio frequencies that could one day link millions of wireless telephones. He assembled investor groups to apply for licenses in return for his 5 percent share.

In the 1990s, Warner launched a bid to unseat Virginia's courtly Republican senior senator, John Warner. He spent $10 million of his own money in a campaign that featured "Mark Not John" bumper stickers, and lost by 6 points.

It was the closest challenge of John Warner's career, and a friendship ensued between the two men, who are not related.

When John Warner decided not to seek a sixth term in 2007, Mark Warner, 53, immediately became a heavy favorite over Gilmore, his predecessor as governor.

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