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Gillespie, Fiorina hit economic message in Ashburn

Ed Gillespie is seeking the Republican nomination for Virginia governor’s race in 2017. Times-Mirror/Trevor Baratko
The 2016 election is two and a half months away.

So, in Virginia, it's time to start thinking about 2017.

Republican gubernatorial hopeful Ed Gillespie on Tuesday hosted a high-profile supporter, former presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, in the ever-crucial Loudoun County, where the two prominent Republicans advocated for free markets, diversifying Virginia's economy and more privatization of certain government functions during an hour-long conversation moderated by state Del. Tag Greason (R-32nd).

“It drives me crazy when I see governors from both sides of the aisle taking credit for creating jobs,” Gillespie said at a crowded Hilton Garden Inn ballroom in Ashburn. “Governors can't create jobs. They can create an environment in which private sector can create jobs, and I think that's what we have an opportunity to do here in this transition to diversifying our economy.”

A former U.S. Senate candidate and Republican National Committee chairman, Gillespie is the front-runner for the GOP nomination in next year's gubernatorial race. In 2014, he lost his Senate bid to incumbent Sen. Mark Warner (D) by less than 1 percent -- this despite Warner being the heavy favorite.

Gillespie has focused on an economic message in the early stages of his campaign. While noting the Northern Virginia economy is strong, Gillespie said people in other parts of the commonwealth “are really feeling like things are not going in the right direction.”

“We're dropping,” Gillespie said in an interview with the Times-Mirror after the event. “We have a very strong foundation here. We are blessed. With our vast natural resources, our natural beauty, our ports, our people, our colleges and universities, we should be in the top five when it comes to economy growth, but we are not. Our economy growth last year was 1.4 percent.”

Both Gillespie and Fiorina railed against what they view as an overgrown government.

“The federal government has way too much power,” Fiorina said. “Way more power than they were ever intended to have. And we need to curtail the power of the federal government. It's yet another reason why it's so important to have Ed Gillespie in the governor's mansion.”

Gillespie will look to frame a nuanced and detailed pitch on the economic front in Virginia, a state known for having a relatively strong business climate. This week, Governing magazine ranked the commonwealth as having the ninth best economy in the U.S.

The Republican candidate isn't yet unveiling specific policy proposals, but he has launched a policy leadership team headed by state Sen. Mark Obenshain and House Majority Leader Kirk Cox to develop ideas and blueprints.

Gillespie is expected to face Democrat Ralph Northam, the current lieutenant governor, in the 2017 contest.
In a letter to the editor sent to the Times-Mirror this week, Northam painted a different picture of the commonwealth's economy

"Despite problems in Washington, Virginia’s leaders have worked together to grow and diversify our economy," Northam wrote. "To date the governor and our administration have announced 766 projects, which are slated to bring in $13 billion of capital investment to Virginia. This includes the recent $10.8 million investment Carfax made to upgrade its data center operation in Loudoun."

Virginia's unemployment rate is currently 3.7 percent.

Republican Carly Fiorina is a former presidential candidate and past CEO of Hewlett-Packard. Times-Mirror/Trevor Baratko


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