Col. North's (USMC-Ret.) failed run for U.S. Senate
in 1994 was one of the most interesting political races in Virginia
in recent memory.
North ran for the Senate seat occupied by then-first term Senator Chuck Robb. During early 1994, several stories came out about wrongdoing and other questionable behavior during Robb's term as Governor (1982-86). Included in these were a former Playboy Playmate, Tai Collins (Robb is married to the former Lynda Bird Johnson); stories of cocaine use linked to Robb and Collins; and illicit taping of cellular phone calls involving Robb's main rival for Democratic Party supremacy, Doug Wilder.
Despite the fact that many of these stories were never quite proven, the rumors were loud enough that this should have been an easy win for the Republican challenger to Robb. However, North came into the picture, heavily backed by two sides, the Christian Coalition types (even stronger then than now in Virginia politics) and military retirees, many of whom saw North's actions in Iran-Contra as simply following orders, and North as a hero, taking the fall for his superiors. He managed to score the Republican nomination for Senate through this.
Some Virginia Republicans, notably led by the commonwealth's senior Senator, John Warner, couldn't stomach the idea of electing a near-felon to represent their state in the Senate. They found a willing candidate in one failed Republican nominee, Marshall Coleman, who mounted an independent campaign that lasted through the fall. On the other side, former Governor Wilder wasn't all that excited about supporting Robb either. So he too jumped into the race as an independent, collected enough signatures to be placed on the ballot, scared the Democratic establishment enough to get some personal attention, then dropped out of the race after the deadline for removing his name from the ballot had passed.
In the (technically) four-cornered election, Robb won with a plurality, barely defeating North. Coleman polled over 10%, and Wilder brought in single digits despite having dropped out of the race. Thus Virginia barely avoided becoming a national laughingstock for electing Ollie North to the Senate.