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WASHINGTON — Ed Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman, has told senior party members he will challenge Senator Mark R. Warner of Virginia and announce his candidacy as early as next week, giving Republicans a top-tier candidate in what has become one of the nation’s most competitive swing states.

The bid by Gillespie, a longtime party operative turned lobbyist with ties to both Republican grass-roots and establishment wings, also underlines the intent of more mainstream Virginia Republicans to retake control of the party after a Tea Party-backed candidate lost the governorship.

He begins the race as a pronounced underdog: Warner, a former governor in his first Senate term, is the most popular politician in Virginia and has $7.1 million in his campaign account and access to millions from his personal fortune. But Republicans in the state believe that, because of resistance to the new health law and President Obama’s declining popularity, they have an opportunity to at least make the race competitive.

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New York Times