Gilmore has lived in Virginia his entire life except for three years he spent in the U. S. Army during the Richard M. Nixon administration. He spent his service helping break up Soviet Union espionage rings and gathering intelligence on terrorists in Germany. Upon his discharge from the Army in 1974, Gilmore entered law school at the University of Virginia, graduating in 1977. He went to work at the Richmond firm of Benedetti, Gilmore, Warthen and Dalton for ten years. During this time he married the former Roxane Gatling. The Gilmores have two sons, Jay and Ashton.
Gilmore's first foray into electoral politics was as district attorney of Henrico County, Virginia, of which Richmond is the seat, in 1987. All told, he has been the Republican nominee in four elections -- for district attorney in 1987 and 1991, attorney general of Virginia in 1993, and Governor in 1997 -- and beat the Democrat every time.
Governorship of Virginia and current
One of Gilmore's most significant campaign promises was to abolish Virginia's tax on automobiles, in keeping with his general belief in starving the beast. As it happened, he was able only to reduce the tax by 70%. This led to significant spending reductions under Gilmore's Democratic successor, Mark Warner.
Gilmore's proudest achievement is the introduction of standardized tests to Virginia public schools, during third, fifth, and eighth grades, and throughout high school. He accomplished this considerably before the No Child Left Behind Act made it mandatory in all states.
Long before Terri Schiavo put the rights of coma patients on the map, Gilmore was in court trying to save the life of Hugh Finn, whose feeding tube was ultimately removed. Of the 39 convicted murderers who came up for capital punishment during Gilmore's term, Gilmore pardoned one and commuted the sentence of another, presiding over the deaths of the other 37 -- a higher number than any other U. S. Governor outside of Texas.
Halfway through his term, Gilmore was tapped for an important national security role by President Bill Clinton -- the chairmanship of the Congressional Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction. His first report in this capacity was presented to Clinton and to Congress on December 15, 1999. Like most analysts, Gilmore did not anticipate that civilian airliners could be used in this capacity, but like Rudy Giuliani he had to take charge of relief efforts following the crash of United Airlines Flight 77 into The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. While Gilmore stepped down as Governor of Virginia, in keeping with that state's constitution (which does not authorize re-election of governors), in 2001, he continued to serve as chairman of the panel until December 2003.
Presidential Primary Race
As of December 2006, Gilmore felt that the declared candidates for the 2008 Republican nomination for President were insufficiently conservative and launched an exploratory committee, enabling him to start raising money for his run. Despite a disappointing showing in the first quarter of 2007's money primary (he even came in behind Dennis Kucinich), Gilmore pressed on, officially declaring his candidacy on April 26, 2007, which entitled him to participate in all three of the televised debates that spring. In his campaign speeches, Gilmore continued to emphasize that he was more conservative than the first tier, which he dismissed with the phrase "Rudy McRomney," a clever conflation of their names. On July 14, 2007 he withdrew from the race to get the Republican presidential nomination.