|Republican Ed Gillespie is squaring off against U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D) in this November’s mid-term elections. Photo Courtesy/ Facebook|
When Ed Gillespie was going to Catholic University in Washington, he worked as a U.S. Senate parking-lot attendant.
It was a way to pay for college expenses, and he probably made a small difference in the lives of a few politicos.
Now 52, Gillespie said he wants to again engage in Senate service, this time in an effort to make a big difference in the lives of all Americans.
A former counselor to President George W. Bush, Gillespie is the GOP nominee to face Virginia's senior U.S. senator, Democrat Mark Warner, this year.
"So I'm hoping in November to be the first person ever – I think – to go from the Senate parking lot to the Senate floor," Gillespie said in a wide-ranging interview.
The Fairfax County resident said that he's running because he feels the policies of Warner and of President Barack Obama are hampering opportunities for Americans.
"Everything they've done has killed jobs, reduced take-home pay, increased our health-care costs and raised energy prices," Gillespie said. "And that's why so many people are feeling squeezed right now."
Warner campaign spokesman David Turner, however, said that the lawmaker has sought fiscally sound policies.
"Senator Warner has worked tirelessly to introduce bipartisan legislation that would create jobs, cut wasteful government spending and put the economy on sound footing," Turner wrote in an email. "Since 2009, nearly 100,000 jobs have been created in the commonwealth. Ed Gillespie has spent his entire career as a Washington lobbyist and political insider who helped cause the gridlock in Washington, so it's no wonder he is already resorting to phony attacks."
Before he ever came to the nation's capital, Gillespie was among the first generation in his family to be born in the U.S. His father immigrated from Ireland at age 8, and his grandfather was a night janitor at a bank building in Philadelphia.
But the Virginia resident of 22 years said he fears that the country is losing the kind of upward mobility that, in just two generations' time, took one family from "immigrant janitor to working in the West Wing of the White House."
So Gillespie said he wants to "put forward policies that create jobs and raise up take-home pay and bring down health-care costs and lower energy prices."
Specifically, he said that he's fought against pollution-control measures such as cap-and-trade or a carbon tax because "they kill jobs, particularly in Southwest Virginia" where mining is prevalent.
"I will stand up for our miners and their families and small businesses that rely on them," Gillespie said.
Also, he said, taxing energy companies drives up the cost to consumers, whether it's for electricity or gasoline.
Actions by Warner, including voting for the much-discussed Affordable Care Act, have been wrong, as well, Gillespie said.
"People are working 28 hours a week instead of 40 hours a week because of the mandates that he voted for in Obamacare," he said.
Gillespie said that a Republican win in the Old Dominion would give control of the Senate to his party, and if the latter happened, the implementation of Obamacare could be delayed.
"And I would like to repeal it and replace it," he said.
Other reforms could make health care more affordable without as much government control, Gillespie said.
Warner also has supported an increase in the minimum wage, a move that Gillespie said could eliminate a half-million entry-level jobs.
Only a small percentage of minimum-wage earners are actually heads of households, he said, and those low-level jobs are the places where first-time employees learn a work ethic and other skills.
"It's all very important," he said.
Aside from the issues, Gillespie's mission could prove a tough fight. Warner, a former Virginia governor, is popular even with some Republicans.
But Gillespie said that he's up for the challenge.
"If you believe the things that I believe, and you feel like you can make a difference, then I think you have a moral obligation to try," he said.