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Gillespie calls Northam an ‘angry liberal,’ pitches economic message in Leesburg

Republican gubernatorial candidate held a rally at The Greene Turtle in Leesburg Friday afternoon. Times-Mirror/Trevor Baratko
Republican Ed Gillespie squeaked out a 1-percentage-point victory in Virginia's GOP gubernatorial primary Tuesday, but one thing was clear after the final votes were tallied: Gillespie has some work to do in the moderate, 384,000-resident Loudoun County, where he topped conservative firebrand Corey Stewart by just 195 votes out of 12,000 cast.

The Gillespie campaign apparently took note. On Friday the Republican nominee rallied about 80 local supporters in Leesburg, pitching an economy-focused message while also knocking his Democratic challenger, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam.

“If you watched the Democratic primary, it was a race to the hard left, and Ralph Northam emerged as an angry liberal if you listened to his rhetoric. It was very harsh and very condemnatory, ” Gillespie said. “It's not just that he disagrees with people who don't agree with him. He disdains us, he looks down on us. That's not the right approach.”

One of Northam's more-prominent TV spots featured the lieutenant governor calling President Donald Trump "a narcissistic maniac."

Gillespie has centered his campaign around bolstering the commonwealth's economic climate, including dropping the individual income tax rate by 10 percent across the board and reducing business and environmental regulations, in part to save coal country jobs in southwest Virginia.

“We are at a critical juncture here in Virginia. We're either going to move forward, or we're going to stay stuck,” Gillespie said. “We're either going to look more and more likes states to our north when it comes to taxes and regulations and forced compulsory unionism and stifling top-down economic policies that result in stagnation, or we're going to look like states to our south … the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida, which are all in the top 20 states in economic growth … at the end of the next governorship, Virginia is either going to be the northernmost southeastern state or the southernmost northeastern state.”

The Republican said North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida “have lower taxes, less regulation” and “unleash entrepreneurship and innovation.”

Gillespie also carved out positions on less-hyped issues, saying he would support a so-called “Tebow bill,” which allows home-schooled students to participate in public school sports, and endorsing an all-out gift ban for himself, his family and members of his administration. Current Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has repeatedly vetoed the “Tebow bill” passed by the General Assembly. McAuliffe said the measure would disrupt a “level playing field” for public school sports. On the gift ban, Gillespie's proposal is largely the same policy McAuliffe has enforced on his administration.

A former Republican National Committee chairman and lobbyist, Gillespie is making his second run for public office in the past four years. In 2014, he nearly defeated incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D) in what would've been a stunning upset.

Gillespie's Friday stop at The Greene Turtle restaurant came the same day a new poll showed the gubernatorial contest in a dead heat. The Harper Polling survey found Gillespie and Northam locked at 46-46 with 8 percent of voters undecided.

Speaking with reporters after addressing the crowd, Gillespie said he would welcome the endorsement of Stewart and his supporters.

Stewart this week said he will vote for the Republican ticket, but he has not indicated that he's ready to formally endorse Gillespie and send supporters his way.

“There’s one word you’ll never hear from me, and that’s ‘unity,'” Stewart, who lost to Gillespie by just 4,300 votes statewide, said after his defeat.

An early and vocal supporter of Donald Trump, Stewart made illegal immigration and preservation of Confederate monuments cornerstones of his campaign.

Gillespie said he opposes removing Confederate monuments and is pro-life, another issue on which Stewart campaigned vigorously.

But, Gillespie said, “it's not what people are asking me about.”

“I'm responding to what my fellow Virginians care about,” he added. “And what they care about is too many of our young adults are graduating from our high schools, colleges and universities and leaving Virginia because they're unable to find a good-paying job here … or, if you're working in a plant in a manufacturing position, the fact that we're shutting manufacturing jobs scares the heck out of people.”

Former Republican state Del. David Ramadan, a Gillespie supporter, expressed the same sentiment earlier this week in an interview with the Times-Mirror.

“What sane conservative candidate wants to be talking about Confederate statues here in 2017. It's not what people care about, not what Republicans are interested in,” said Ramadan.

Democrats have consistently linked Gillespie to President Trump, who lost Virginia in last year's election and is unpopular in voter-rich Northern Virginia.

“Ed Gillespie's agenda and Donald Trump's are one and the same,” said Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez in a Friday fundraising email. “Gillespie supports Trump and the GOP's disastrous health care repeal and draconian restrictions on women's health care. He stood with Trump on his Muslim ban and his decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord. And both Gillespie and Trump want to give massive tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires.”

The 2017 gubernatorial race in Virginia is being closely watched as a referendum on the early months of Donald Trump's presidency, especially factoring in Stewart's connection to Trump and his loyal followers.

Contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or on Twitter at @TrevorBaratko.


Ed was shaking hands with people at Celebrate Fairfax, when one person said to him, “I am sorry, I don’t speak Russian.”  Instead of letting it slide, Ed said to this person that the comment was “mean,” and “hurtful.”  If it weren’t for double standards Ed…Oh never mind…..

SJW and known triggered snowflake DD is whining about pictures again. Must be the MSM with their camera torches illuminating the dullards as to what bill of goods they’re being sold by captain swamp lobby.

Again, an unflattering photo for a Republican.  When does the political bias stop?

Ed, How about some substance?
What is your position on the composite index?
What is your position on the return of the Dulles Airport parking lots to Virginia from federal gov’t so Loudoun can support its schools?
What is your position on forcing VDOT to at least maintain roads in Northern Virginia at least above its own stated minimums? (starting with route 15 north of Leesburg!)
Bob O__ Esq.

If Northam is elected this state is going Southam.

Promising to make Virginia more like Florida is suppose to be a winning strategy?

This Trump supporter will NOT vote for lobbyist Ed….he is the swamp, so please do not connect Gillespie to Trump supporters, new media code word for establishment is “moderate”...Ed will be a two time loser within a few months…

Party of Trump.

Have to admire the idea that when you’re looking at losing by double digits you should just come out swinging.  Of course, Gillespie is just a bit too phony to pull this off. 

Ralph Northam seems be a pretty solid fellow.  Gillespie’s going to really have to show me something to get my vote.

Someone tell me what Ralph Northam has done as Liet. Governor and I’ll make up my mind then. I never heard of him.

Anyone who emulates Florida or South Carolina isn’t deserving of a vote.

That is too funny…Gillespie was a miserable RNC chairman and now he thinks he can waltz into the Governors mansion? Not on my watch!

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