A Case of Bad Timing
Ed Gillespie will probably be the 2017 Republican nominee for Governor.
He’s endorsed by all the best people. His campaign raised $1,918,440.80 for the reporting period beginning on July 1, 2016 and ending on December 31, 2016. His cash on hand is $1,860,392.89. No other major Republican candidate appears ready to enter the race.
Much is at stake in the 2017 election. Without a Republican Governor, state government becomes fraught with the possibility of Democrat hanky-panky.
Beyond getting the Republican nomination, there are hurdles to Mr. Gillespie becoming the 73rd Governor of Virginia.
Timing can be everything in politics and Ed’s timing is off.
Donald Trump’s election was not an aberration. Americans have long vented their political frustrations by voting for insurgent presidential candidates: Huey Long (who planned to run in 1936, but was assassinated in 1935), George Wallace (1968 & 1972), John Anderson (1980), Ross Perot (1992), John McCain (2000) and Bernie Sanders (2016). By capturing the nomination of a major party, Donald Trump finally gave frustrated voters the ability to elect a President.
Ed benefitted from this anger in 2014 when he shocked popular and well-funded Senator Mark Warner by nearly beating him.
Why was Donald Trump, an unconventional candidate, able to best sixteen Republicans for the nomination and then defeat Hillary Clinton, a better informed, organized and financed candidate?
The answer is middle-class Americans were white-hot angry about political grid-lock in Washington. They perceived lobbyists, special interests and campaign money to have skewed the Federal government so that it no longer works for ordinary Americans. This acrimony will carry over into the 2017 Virginia election.
Although Ed is popular with elected officials, party leaders and activists, he will be viewed skeptically by voters who see conventional politicians, insiders and lobbyists as minions inhabiting the swamp they elected Donald Trump to drain.
When Virginia Republicans really need to win, is the Post-Trump election year of 2017 the time to run a former Hill and White House staffer who made millions of dollars lobbying on behalf of special interests as the Republican candidate for Governor of Virginia?
Who’s Got the Better Resume?
Assuming the party nominees are Mr. Gillespie and Dr. Northam, Dr. Northam has key bullet points on his candidate resume Mr. Gillespie lacks.
Dr. Northam is a native Virginian and speaks with a hint of the Tidewater accent.
He is a graduate of Virginia Military Institute where he was President of the Honor Court. After VMI, Dr. Northam graduated from Eastern Virginia Medical School and did his pediatric residency at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. He served eight years in the Army and treated soldiers wounded in Desert Storm. Leaving the Army in 1992, Dr. Northam joined the staff of Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk.
Virginia has a large retired and active duty military vote. Being a VMI graduate means something south of the Occoquan. Service in the U.S. Army Medical Corps treating soldiers will resonate with the roughly ten percent of Virginians who are veterans or on active duty.
Mr. Gillespie does not list military service on his website.
Dr. Northam entered politics in 2007 when he won the 6th District Senate seat. He was re-elected in 2011 and defeated E.W. Jackson to become Lieutenant Governor in 2013. Mr. Gillespie has never won elected office.
Dr. Northam will argue he is qualified to be Governor by his service to the country, to the community as a physician and to the people of Virginia as an elected official. Mr. Gillespie’s career involves mostly partisan and Washington Beltway politics.
Mr. Gillespie has far greater political experience than Dr. Northam.
Although Ed Gillespie has shown extraordinary abilities at the highest levels of national government, does anybody believe the Democrats won’t play up the candidates’ other stark career differences in television ads starting in late August?
Mr. Gillespie’s Success Will Be Used Against Him
Between 2013 and 2015, Hillary Clinton collected 21.6 million dollars giving speeches to just one company, Goldman-Sachs. Would anybody dispute Goldman-Sachs was paying, in advance, for favors needed later had she won?
The House and Senate lobbying reports for the “bi-partisan” public affairs firm Mr. Gillespie founded with former Democratic White House Counsel Jack Quinn, Quinn-Gillespie and Associates, shows clients routinely paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for a few months’ work.
With a firm led by titans from both political parties, Quinn-Gillespie could lobby any issue for any client, foreign or domestic. Need a protectionist tariff to help your business (U.S. steel companies)? Need help fighting a protectionist tariff (Canadian lumber)? Need help when your firm is caught smuggling illegal immigrants to work at your plants for lower wages (Tyson’s Foods)? Need relief against pesky regulators after your firm is fined millions for securities law violations (Price-Waterhouse)? Need favorable energy policies and tax breaks (Enron)? Quinn-Gillespie and Associates to the rescue!
Enron paid Ed’s firm $700,000.
Ed left the firm to in 2007 to replace Karl Rove in the Bush White House.
I applaud Ed’s founding a successful business and fighting for his clients, and I don’t fault him for being paid well. But, didn’t the Clinton speaking fees controversy in the 2016 presidential campaign show us the very bad optics of turnstile public service and big money influence politics?
Stay tuned for Part II: Problems at Poarch Creek