GOP’s Gillespie Bringing Senate Campaign To Harrisonburg
Candidate Won Party Nomination Saturday
ROANOKE — Former presidential adviser Ed Gillespie, who clinched the Republican nomination at the state party convention Saturday, will be in full campaign mode this week with stops around the commonwealth, including one this morning in Harrisonburg.
Gillespie, who had been the heavy favorite to win the GOP nod, is scheduled to make an 11:30 a.m. appearance at The Printing Express, 21 Warehouse Road. The business’ owner, Mike Meredith, has long been active in GOP politics and previously has served as Rockingham County Republican Committee chairman and as a member of the GOP’s 6th District Committee.
Meredith said he’s looking forward to Gillespie’s visit, describing the candidate as “a real pro-business kind of guy.”
Gillespie, who defeated three opponents for the nomination during the Virginia Republican Convention in Roanoke, will challenge Democrat incumbent Mark Warner, a former Virginia governor, who is seeking his second term in the Senate during this year’s general election. Gillespie is a former Republican National Committee chairman and served as an adviser to President George W. Bush and to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.
According to Paul Logan, communications director for the Gillespie campaign, the candidate will speak today on his five-point “Agenda for Economic Growth,” which calls for “replacing ObamaCare, unleashing American energy, tax and regulatory relief, education reform, and cutting wasteful spending and balancing the budget.”
Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, said that, while he will be unable to attend today’s rally, he feels great about the Gillespie candidacy.
“I nominated him at the convention. … I feel Gillespie is the right candidate for the U.S. Senate,” Obenshain said.
Rockingham County Republican Committee Chairwoman Donna Moser agrees. “I think he is a winnable candidate.”
Moser said today’s visit will be an excellent opportunity for those who have little knowledge of Gillespie to meet him.
Gillespie also has scheduled stops today in Charlottesville, Culpeper and Winchester.
In addition to Warner, Libertarian Robert Sarvis, who won 6.5 percent of the vote in last fall’s gubernatorial contest, is seeking to get on the November ballot for the Senate seat. Tuesday marks the petition deadline for third-party and independent candidates in Virginia.
On Saturday, Gillespie beat out insurance salesman and former Air Force pilot Shak Hill; congressional staffer Tony DeTora; and Chuck Moss, owner of a network consulting business, to win the Republican nomination.
In a speech to thousands of GOP delegates prior to the convention vote in which he was the favorite, Gillespie promised to fight for lower taxes, fewer restrictions on energy production and to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“I will take our fight to Mark Warner,” Gillespie said. “I will lead us to victory in the fall and we can turn our great country around again.”
Republicans are waging a fight against supporters of Democratic President Barack Obama to gain the six Senate seats required to secure control of that chamber. Warner, however, is an early favorite.
A race between Gillespie and Warner pits against each other two multimillionaires from Northern Virginia who both worked as political operatives early in their careers.
Warner made his fortune as a cellphone pioneer. Gillespie worked as an aide to former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey, and was part of the GOP’s conservative “Contract with America” congressional movement in the 1990s. He later worked as a lobbyist and consultant for several Fortune 500 companies.
Hill tried to make the case that Gillespie’s past as a lobbyist made him unelectable against Warner.
“I have the moral authority to challenge Mark Warner; not everyone in this race can make that claim,” Hill said before the votes were cast Saturday.
He conceded when it became clear from early vote totals that Gillespie would win comfortably. Hill said he would support Gillespie in the general election.
Gillespie largely sidestepped the ongoing feud in the Republican Party between tea party enthusiasts and the party’s establishment.
Waverly Woods, chair of the Hampton Roads Tea Party, supported Hill but said she would vote for Gillespie in the general campaign, albeit with limited enthusiasm.
“I don’t think he’s going to need me to campaign for him; I think he’s got enough hired staff,” she said.
Gillespie, who has raised about $3 million since announcing his candidacy in January, sought to unify the party Saturday.
“We have come into this hall through different doors, but we will leave this hall through one Republican door,” he said.
Outside the civic center, the Virginia Democratic Party had organized a handful of protesters who held signs and wore hats mocking Gillespie as a greedy lobbyist.
“If you line his pockets, you can have him in yours,” read one poster.
Daily News-Record reporter Bryan Gilkerson contributed to this story.