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Gillespie brings U.S. Senate bid to region

South Boston News
Ed Gillespie, Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, poses with Halifax County party chair Pat Barksdale during a campaign stop Friday at the Hardee’s in Riverdale. (Sylvia O. McLaughlin photo) / September 01, 2014
Republican candidate Ed Gillespie barnstormed across Southside Virginia Friday for the traditional Labor Day campaign kickoff, claiming momentum in his race for U.S. Senate against two-term incumbent Democrat Mark Warner.

Gillespie dropped by Hardee’s in Riverdale Friday for a dinnertime meet-and-greet with about 65 local supporters, after making stops earlier in the day in Blackstone, South Hill, Clarksville and continuing on to Danville.

Gillespie, a former Bush White House strategist, Republican National Committee chairman and lobbyist making his first run for elective office, touted the swing as part of his two-week “Ease the Squeeze” tour. He said he was running on an agenda of increasing jobs and economic growth, cutting regulations and repealing and replacing Obamacare.

“I’m putting forward my ideas and I think the people of Virginia are responding to them,” he said.

Gillespie’s proposals for creating jobs include lowering the corporate tax rate, rolling back EPA curbs on coal pollution that he says have raised the cost of electricity, encouraging development of other energy sources, and developing a “market-based” alternative to the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

“I think those policies [by the Obama Administration] have hurt the Commonwealth and hurt the country,” he said.

Warner, a former governor who won the Senate seat in 2011, has voted with President Obama 97 percent of the time, Gillespie asserted.

He said as a U.S. Senator, he would help lead a change in direction by presenting “market oriented reforms that work” — such as allowing health insurers to compete across state lines, increasing reliance on Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) to pay medical bills, and cutting the top corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. (A 2013 General Accounting Office study estimated that U.S. companies pay an effective federal tax rate of about 13 percent, after deductions.) He also called for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline to open up petroleum production of Canadian tar sands.

He pointed to low economic growth — recently estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to settle in around 1.5 percent this year — to argue for Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate, with the House of Representatives already in GOP hands. “The new normal is the new mediocre,” he said, referring to the economy in Obama’s tenure, “and we can turn it around.”

Gillespie also calls for “a greater range of options” for education rather than the “Warner-Obama solution” of “throwing money at the problem in hopes that doing more of the same will result in a higher percentage of students graduating from our K-12 schools with a quality education.” He told an audience Friday: “Competition is good for everybody. It’s good for Mark Warner and me, it’s good for Coke and Pepsi, and it would be good for our public schools and make them more responsive to kids and parents.”

In his campaign literature, available on his website,, Gillespie does not spell out the policies he would pursue to encourage charter schools, traditionally an issue handled by state government. He expresses his opposition to Common Core educational standards, meant to replace the teach-to-the-test approach of No Child Left Behind: “We know that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work,” he states on his website.

Gillespie was a White House counselor late in the administration of George Bush, which shepherded passage of the No Child Left Behind Act through Congress.

In his Southside stops, Gillespie also accused Warner of supporting a cap-and-trade system for limiting greenhouse gas emissions as part of the Obama Administration’s “War on Coal.” Gillespie said that climate change is real but argued the U.S. should not impose limits on coal, a major source of carbon pollution, because doing so would shift “production over to countries that has less stringent controls over air quality” than the U.S., including China.

“I think you’ll do even more damage” to the environment, he said.

Without offering specifics, Gillespie said he would work to simplify the tax code, reduce regulations that impede economic growth and support a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. Warner voted against such an amendment, Gillespie said.

Prior to Gillespie’s Southside swing, the Warner campaign issued a statement in response to the “Ease of the Squeeze” tour that mocked the GOP nominee’s background as a highly-paid corporate lobbyist. “Ease the squeeze? Ed Gillespie was the man behind the bind,” stated Warner campaign spokesman David Turner. “While Ed Gillespie was paid millions as a DC lobbyist for special interests like Enron, Mark Warner was creating jobs and opportunities for all Virginians as a business leader, Governor and Senator.”

Gillespie, a Fairfax County resident, made $2,958,000 over the past year with his consulting firm, Ed Gillespie Strategies, according to recently filed ethics forms. Prior to forming his own firm, Gillespie was a partner in Quinn Gillespie & Associates, a leading K Street lobby shop in Washington, D.C. In 2001, the firm collected $700,000 in fees from Enron, which later collapsed amid a bankruptcy and stock manipulation scandal.

Gillespie and his wife listed a net worth of between $10.3 million and $24.7 million at the end of 2013, primarily from lobbying and political work.

Warner, who made a fortune in telecommunications, is the Senate’s richest member with an estimated net worth of $257 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks the wealth of congressional representatives (

Long considered one of Washington’s most influential lobbyists, Gillespie played up his modest roots in Friday’s campaign stops across Southside. One of six children, Gillespie was born in 1961 and grew up in Pemberton Township, N.J., the son of a small grocery store owner. His first job was helping out at the store as a child.

Upon arriving in Washington, D.C. as a student at Catholic University, Gillespie made $5.50 an hour working as a parking attendant at the U.S. Senate garage.

“I want to become the first person to ever go from the Senate parking lot to the Senate floor,” he told listeners Friday.

Polling in the race shows Warner holding a comfortable lead, by margins ranging from 10 points in a CBS News/New York Times/YouGov survey conducted through July to 23 points in a Hampton University poll conducted late in the month. Since then, Gillespie has gone on television with his first campaign spots, and he claimed Friday that the race is moving his way.

In the battle for control of the U.S. Senate, Gillespie predicted that Virginia’s seat will land in the Republican column come November.

“Not only will Mark Warner become the former senator from Virginia, Harry Reid will become the former Senate Majority Leader, and that is worth a lot in terms of the direction of the country. And that’s why I am running,” he said.

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2 mill is a long way from 257mill and the liberal dems seem to have no problem with the dems making money, it is only the evil conservatives that can't make money. I hope that he can defeat warner, who is just an Obama clone


Virginia is now a blue state, sadly. With NOVA, VA Beach, Charlottesville and other liberal bastions, this poor guy doesn't have a prayer. He'll get my vote but the state has become too ignorant to elect anything but the Dem's statewide. Just get a load of our Governor. Barksdale doesn't really help this guy either any more than taking a photo with John Greenbacker.


Wow. If Gillespie believes that cutting corporate taxes will create jobs, then that tells me the R's believe in unicorns just as much as the D's. It might create jobs in some 3rd world country where the living wage is $1 a day, otherwise all it will do is fatten top execs' wallets.

Now, tie that reduced tax rate to proven domestic job creation with caveat that if jobs aren't created in a set time the corporate tax rate returns to highest and even punitive levels. You might then see some real effort to create domestic jobs.

Meh. All they'll do then is relocate HQ to somewhere with low or nonexistent corporate taxation. Look what Burger King is trying to do.

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