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PolitifactVA: Senator Warner on Defunding The Police

Man at podium
Mark Warner speaking at an event before the pandemic. (Photo: Craig Carper/VPM News)

Speaker: Daniel Gade
Statement: “@Mark Warner and his party bosses are calling to defund the police...”
Date: July 22
Source: Twitter

The national debate on law and order is spilling into Virginia’s U.S. Senate race, with Republican nominee Daniel Gade repeatedly saying incumbent Democrat Mark Warner wants to defund police departments.

“@MarkWarner & his party bosses are calling to defund police…” Gade tweeted on July 22.

“Do you agree with @MarkWarnerVA and @TheDemocrats that we should defund our police?” Gade asked in a July 23 tweet, which contained boxes for readers to vote “yes” or “no.”

We fact-checked Gade’s claim and found no evidence that Warner supports defunding police. To the contrary, the senator has often said he opposes such action. Let’s take a deeper look.


Gade is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who lost his right leg in combat in Iraq. He has a Ph.D. in public administration and policy and is a professor at American University. This is his first run for public office.

The "defund" movement calls on local governments to shift spending on law enforcement to programs that address economic and social issues for minorities. It came to the forefront after the May 25 death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police.

President Donald Trump and other Republicans have depicted the defunding movement as a dismantling of police forces. Trump, who is running a law and order reelection campaign, has repeatedly accused Democratic nominee Joe Biden of wanting to defund police. PolitiFact National recently rated the claim False, pointing to a CBS interview in which Biden said he opposed the policy.

Some protestors in the wake of Floyd’s death have called for the elimination of police forces. 

But many supporting defunding say it doesn’t mean an end to policing but, rather, a reallocation of some of the money and work that has traditionally gone to police departments. For example, instead of dispatching police to routine problems involving the homeless or drug abusers, they say it would be better to send officials from other municipal departments that have training in treating such people. Some of the funds going to police, they say, would be better spent treating mental illness and addiction.

Warner’s record

Warner has said at least four times that he opposes defunding police. All of his statements came at least a month before Gade accused him of backing the policy. 

  • During a June 8 Facebook town hall meeting, Warner said, “Let me be clear, I don’t support defunding the police.”

  • In a June 11 article by Channel 29 in Charlottesville, Warner was quoted saying, “...I don’t think we should get caught in these slogans like defunding the police. To me, that’s not where I’m headed. I’m looking at reform, criminal justice reform.”

  • On June 19, Channel 12 in Richmond aired a report on the policing positions of Warner; Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va; and Rep. Denver Riggleman, R-Va. The report said, “All three disagree with the ‘defund the police’ slogan…” The report was posted on Warner’s campaign site. 

  • During a June 22 Facebook town hall meeting, Warner said of defunding police, “I don’t think that slogan or that policy is something that I support.”


Warner is among 36 Democratic senators that have endorsed a police reform bill by Sen. Corey Booker, D-N.J. It would:

  •  Make police officers more legally liable for misconduct;
  •  Improve data collection so that an officer’s misconduct record would be available if he applied to work for another police force;
  • Improve police training and ban chokeholds.


Gade’s Response

We were unable in three attempts to reach Gade’s campaign. Gade, however, responded to a July 23 blog - posted by Blue Virginia, a liberal website - accusing him of telling “lies” about Warner’s defunding stance.  

Gade, replying on Facebook the next day, said Warner’s position on police reform is “confusing.” He added, “It’s time to get some straight talk. Mark, do you support defunding the police or not? We’re all awaiting your answer.”


Our ruling

On July 22, Gade said Warner is “calling to defund the police.” He repeated the claim two days later.

Warner, at least a month before Gade’s statements, said he is opposed to defunding police. The senator staked out his position in virtual town hall meetings, TV reports, and on his campaign website. The statements can be easily found, clear as day.

We rate Gade’s claim False.

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