BY JOHNATHAN POLSON
Political strategist Ed Gillespie announced his plans to challenge Virginia Sen. Mark Warner in the upcoming senatorial elections this November.
Gillespie formally announced his long-rumored run in a YouTube video on Thursday, Jan. 16. In the video, Gillespie appeared with his family and spoke of his experience in politics. In addition to announcing his campaign, Gillespie called out Sen. Warner, criticizing his support of tax increases and President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
“The American Dream is being undermined by policies that move us away from Constitutional principles of limited government and personal liberty,” Gillesie said.
Gillespie criticized the ACA, declaring it a killer of jobs, and stated that as a senator for Virginia he would be “a leader for policies that grow the middle class and foster upward mobility.”
As a former lobbyist, chairman of the Republican National Committee and counsel to former President George W. Bush, Gillespie is already well-known in Washington, D.C., and his bid was rumored for weeks before the official announcement.
With extensive experience and a network of political supporters, Gillespie is sure to pose a challenge to Warner, a popular senator in Virginia who was expected to easily win reelection.
“Until just a few weeks ago, it looked like Mark Warner was just going to cruise to victory in 2014,” said Max Reinhardt, chairman of the University of Mary Washington College Republicans.
However, many Republicans believe Gillespie is the type of candidate needed to rouse support for their party in Virginia.
“With Ed Gillespie in the race, this is a fight now, and I think it’s a fight we can win,” said Reinhardt. “As an advisor to [Bush] and chairman of the RNC, he championed all sides of the conservative movement: fiscal responsibility, national defense and family values.”
The race will be tight as the Commonwealth of Virginia remains questionable in terms of its political alignment as a whole. The commonwealth voted blue in the 2012 presidential election, while Democrat Terry McAuliffe was just inaugurated as governor earlier this month.
Warner has served Virginia as governor from 2002 through 2006 and worked in the U.S. Senate since 2008, where he led and championed bipartisan efforts on a multitude of issues. In response to Gillespie’s announcement last Thursday, Warner released a statement asking Virginians to “rehire” him.
Warner avoided addressing Gillespie directly, stating, “I look forward to putting my independent, bipartisan record up against whichever candidate the Republicans nominate at their convention in June.”
Chris Dingus, president of the Young Democrats at UMW echoed the fact that Gillespie has yet to receive the nomination, although he is currently the only Republican in the race.
“Gillespie could be a challenge to Warner because of his vast fundraising experience. However, it is not certain that he will win the nomination,” said Dingus. “If Gillespie were to win the nomination, I do not think Warner would need to re-strategize, as he has a longstanding career of success in Virginia politics.”
The RNC will nominate a candidate in June, and if Gillespie is chosen he will have five months to campaign against Warner’s long history of success.