Ed Gillespie, the former chair of the Republican National Committee and former counselor to President George W. Bush, is the frontrunner in the race for the Republican nomination for Virginia Governor. The 55-year-old New Jersey native has been trying to win an elective office since 2014, when he ran an unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign against incumbent Democrat Mark Warner.
Gillespie is a pro-life, anti-Obamacare Republican. He is married to Cathy Gillespie. They have three children, John, Carrie and Mollie.
Here’s what you need to know on Gillespie’s political views.
1. Gillespie Calls Obamacare a ‘Disaster for Virginians,’ but Hasn’t Voiced Support for the AHCA
During his 2014 Senate campaign, Gillespie said he opposed Obamacare and wanted to see it repealed and replaced. Today, he continues to voice opposition for the Affordable Care Act. In a May 8, 2017 statement on hi website, Gillespie called it a “disaster for Virginians,” pointing out the CNBC report that Aetna is leaving the state’s Obamacare markets in 2018.
“Lost in the hysterics of the Left (including Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam and Congressman Tom Perriello) is the fact that Obamacare simply isn’t working for Virginians and that Congress’ actions to repeal and replace this disastrous policy is just the first step in a long process,” Gillespie’s website reads. “Our premiums are skyrocketing, our choices in doctors are vanishing, and our economy remains stuck in neutral.”
Gillespie’s standing on the American Health Care Act, which was passed by the House of Representatives last month, is less clear. He makes no mention of it on his website’s healthcare page. Instead, he vows:
I will work to reduce healthcare costs and make sure patients are in charge of healthcare decisions. I will make sure every dollar we put into the system is accountable to outcomes that will improve health and reduce bureaucratic hurdles. We will seek innovative solutions that expand access to primary healthcare services and utilize technology to make our healthcare system smarter. We will reform our safety net programs to reduce fraud and inefficiencies so we can control costs. We can make Virginia a healthier place to live, care for our neighbors in need, and strengthen our economy.
In an interview with Newsweek, Gillespie said he was open to waivers to let states apply to get out of Obamacare requirements, like the one in the AHCA.
“I’ll take a look at it, look at the cost, what the funding for a risk pool would be and the impact on Virginians before making an informed decision,’ Gillespie told Newsweek.
2. Gillespie Was Endorsed By the National Right to Life & Once Said He’d Like to See Abortion ‘Banned’
Gillespie is pro-life and earned the endorsement of the National Right to Life, a pro-life group. Gillespie is hoping to ban late-term abortions and doesn’t want to use public funding to pay for abortions.
“Ed Gillespie is a strong advocate for life. As governor, he would support and sign pro-life legislation, including legislation to protect an unborn child from abortion at the point he or she can feel pain, and he opposes using taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion,” David N. O’Steen, Ph.D., executive director of the National Right to Life Committee, said in a statement. “National Right to Life looks forward to working with him in Virginia to implement pro-life policies to protect unborn children from abortion, and medically dependent or disabled persons, whose lives are threatened by euthanasia.”
As the Washington Post reports, during an April candidates forum, Gillespie said that he’d like to see abortion “banned because I think it is a taking of an innocent human life.”
His campaign staff later told the Post that Gillespie still supports the exceptions that he has throughout his political career. “Though the attacks may change over the years, Ed’s position has not,” Abbi Sigler, a Gillespie campaign spokeswoman, told the Post.
Gillespie says he only supports abortions in cases of rape or incest, or to save the life of the mother.
3. He Supports School Choice & Supports Public Charter Schools
On his website, Gillespie says he wants to provide students and parents with their choice of school. “Some children lack the opportunities they deserve and are forced into failing schools just because of their zip code. And too many of our young people are entering the workforce without the skills they need to get a good paying job,” his site reads.
Gillespie is also a strong supporter of creating more public charter schools in Virginia, noting that the state has just nine charter schools. He criticized the Democratic hopefuls, Tom Perriello and Ralph Northam, for not support charter school expansion.
“Ralph Northam and Tom Perriello should stop putting politics ahead of opportunities to strengthen schools and enhance our system of education,” Gillespie said in March. “Giving parents more options like public charter schools will improve all public schools, and help ensure that every child in Virginia has access to a quality education.”
In a May interview with NBC12, Gillespie said education will be one of his priorities as governor.
“We anticipate $3.4 billion in increased revenue coming into our treasury over the next five years,” Gillespie told NBC12. “I would set aside two billion, preserve that to increase spending on functions like law enforcement, transportation, and education. But for every three dollars we spend in increased spending, set aside two dollars to phase in that rate cut over three years.”
4. Gillespie Proposed an ‘Across-The-Board’ Tax Cut
Back in March, Gillespie unveiled his tax cut plan, proposing the first cut to the state’s individual income tax rate for the first time since 1972. He told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that his “across-the-board” tax cut will be the “centerpiece” of his campaign. He says it will be paid for by the increased revenue he expects to see the state receive.
“We have got to foster natural organic growth, small-business creation, more emphasis on startups and scale-ups,” Gillespie said. “It will mean fewer splashy press releases from the governor’s office, but the fact is that is the key to long-term, sustainable, good job creation in the private sector in the commonwealth.”
On his website, Gillespie says he plans on cutting individual income tax rates by 10 percent for everyone, “putting nearly $1,300 per year back into the pockets of a family of four.” He also wants to create 50,000 new full-time private sector jobs in the next five years.
It’s projected that Virginia will see $3.4 billion in revenue over the next five years. Gillespie says his tax plan will cost $1.3 billion of that.
5. Gillespie Hasn’t Completely Embraced Trump, but He Wants to be ‘Very Strong’ on Immigration
Gillespie has tried to walk a tight-rope during the primary campaign, as an establishment candidate with a past in lobbying and working for President George W. Bush. He’s running for governor in a state Donald Trump lost, so he doesn’t want to be seen as pro-Trump in case he makes it to the general election in November. But he also needs the support of Republican primary voters. Meanwhile, challenger Corey Stewart, Trump’s Virginia campaign chairman, has made no attempt to hide his support for the president.
Gillespie has made some clear overtures to Trump supporters. As Fox5 notes, he has said he’ll be “very strong” on immigration. He wants to end a program that lets the children of illegal immigrants who live in Virginia to pay in-state tuition at public universities. But he also ran campaign ads in Korean and Spanish to attract immigrant voters.
As CNN notes, in another attempt to attract Trump voters’ support, he is rejecting big donors. His campaign has worked hard to distance himself from American Crossroads, a Super PAC he helped found. His campaign has called him an “adviser” to the group, not a “founder.”
Gillespie was the chair of the Republican National Committee from 2003 to 2005 and the Chair of the Virginia GOP from 2006 to 2007. From 2007 to 2009, he was Bush’s Counselor to the President, a role now held by Kellyanne Conway.