GOP’s Hill Aims At Front-Runner
Primary Candidate Seeks Party Nod
HARRISONBURG — A retired Air Force pilot took aim at Ed Gillespie, the front-runner for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate on Thursday.
Shak Hill, who served in the Gulf War, is vying with Gillespie, who was a counselor to former President George W. Bush and chair of the Republican National Committee, to become the party’s candidate in this year’s Senate race. Also seeking the job are Republicans Anthony DeTora, a senior policy adviser to U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California, and Charles Moses, a Nokesville businessman,
The nomination will be decided during a state GOP convention on June 7 in Roanoke.
The winner will take on one-term incumbent, Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, in November.
Hill spoke at the International House of Pancakes in Harrisonburg before addressing the Rockingham County Republican Committee Thursday evening.
“The No. 1 issue is Obamacare,” Hill said, referring to the federal health care law officially known as the Affordable Care Act. “If we nominate Ed Gillespie, we take it off the table.”
Hill said that if Gillespie gets the nomination, Warner will bring up Gillespie’s role as an adviser to 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney during the campaign.
“You don’t think Mark Warner’s going to connect him to Romneycare?” Hill, referring to the Massachusetts version of health care reform that Romney signed into law, asked a small crowd at IHOP. “Gillespie was on TV telling people Romneycare works.
“Gillespie does not have the moral high ground to challenge [Warner].”
He said Gillespie — a lobbyist by trade — lobbied for Enron, Tyson Foods, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, bank bailouts and the No Child Left Behind bill before it became law.
Referring to these lobbying efforts, Hill said Gillespie “doesn’t need money, he needs a time machine,” so he can go back and change what he did.
“Is Mark Warner going to ignore Ed Gillespie’s record?” he asked. When the crowd answered, “No,” Hill replied, “Then why are we [as Republicans] doing it?”
Hill said that Gillespie has plenty of money, but hasn’t filled out any of the position surveys candidates normally fill out.
“He doesn’t want to debate because he does not want to be put on the record” as to where he stands on the issues, Hill said. For his part, Hill said he asked the Virginia Republican Party to sponsor a debate, but none was scheduled.
Hill said Gillespie usually sends a surrogate to speak on his behalf when he knows that Hill will be at an event. Often Gillespie uses state Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, for this duty, Hill said.
“I would make way for Mark Obenshain if he was running. Sometimes, I think I’m running against him,” Hill joked.
As of March 31, Gillespie had raised $2.2 million and had $1.9 million in cash on hand, according to OpenSecrets.org. Hill was second among the prospective GOP candidates with $161,000 raised and $87,000 in cash on hand.
Warner had raised $11.2 million and had $8.8 million in cash on hand.
If he wins the Republican nomination, Hill said he will be able to appeal to swing Northern Virginia voters because he is a veteran and has a liberal social side. This “liberal” label, he said, is in regard to the fact that he and his wife have been foster parents to 46 children, four whom they adopted.
Hill notes that former Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, appointed him to the state’s Domestic Violence Task Force, which Hill said acts as a clearinghouse for shelters, meals on wheels and fatherhood initiatives.
Hill, whose real name is Wayshak after his mother’s maiden name, was born in California and raised in Louisiana. His previous political experience includes one term as a councilman in West Melbourne, Fla., where he ran as an independent and defeated a Republican incumbent in 2005.
Contact Caleb M. Soptelean at 574-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org