Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam is pro-choice, supports Obamacare, and thinks the NRA “went off the deep end long ago.” He also thinks Trump is a “narcissistic maniac,” which carries some weight since he is board certified in Psychiatry.
His Republican opponent, Ed Gillespie, is pro-life, wants to repeal Obamacare, and is endorsed by the NRA. Though Gillespie likes to distance himself from Trump, he just hired Jack Morgan, Trump’s Southwest Virginia field director, to play a similar role for his campaign. According to Morgan, those who advocate removing Confederate monuments represent a “communist plot to undermine America.“ In a Scaramucci-like tone, Morgan recently ranted, “We have to combat these crazy leftists, some socialists, but a whole lot of communists…who are coming after our country and after our foundation.” So at least by association, Gillespie is firmly in the Trump camp.
We recognize that the facts and positions represented above have probably convinced 95% of the voters which way to go. For those who want to dig a bit deeper beyond a single issue, we present a series of essays that discuss aspects of each candidate. This essay covers experience and readiness for office.
On his website, Ed Gillespie details “Ed’s Background” as a business owner with multiple distinguished roles serving Republican elected officials, including House Majority Leader Dick Armey and President George W. Bush. Gillespie also served in multiple positions within national and state Republican committees.
Nowhere on this page does it mention that Gillespie made his fortune as a Washington DC lobbyist. According to Wikipedia, between founding Quinn Gillespie & Associates in 2000 and the end of 2002, the firm had received $27.4 million in lobbying fees from companies like Microsoft, Verizon Wireless, and Enron (yes, that Enron). According to multiple sources, Gillespie sold his first firm for $40 million in 2004 and has since then set up his own shop, Ed Gillespie Strategies.
In fact, below is a timeline of Gillespie’s employment record from Open Secrets.org, which you can click to see at full screen. Other than a 2-year stint at the White House in 2007-2008, Gillespie has been lobbying more or less continuously since the mid-90s.
Few lobbyists straddled the line between serving their party and serving their lobbying clients more closely than Gillespie. When President Bush named Gillespie chairman of the Republican National Committee in 2004, watchdog group Public Citizen stated, “President Bush’s decision to name lobbyist Ed Gillespie as chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) will give one of Washington’s prominent power-brokers unrivaled access, influence and opportunity to further the interests of his corporate benefactors and his own lobbying firm.” More to the point, in 2007, the Washingtonian stated that Gillespie “has turned his relationship with President Bush into an $18-million business.”
When Gillespie lost his 2014 Senate bid to Senator Mark Warner, he quickly rejoined consulting firm Brunswick Group as senior counselor and continuing lobbying work with his own firm. It seems clear that if he loses the Gubernatorial race, he’ll return to lobbying yet again.
Sending a Lobbyist To Richmond “Would be a Disaster”
There’s nothing illegal about lobbying of course, though it is disturbing that Gillespie fails to include any mention of lobbying on his website. Clearly, he doesn’t see it as a strength.
Interestingly, neither did communist-hating Jack Morgan, back when he campaigned for Corey Stewart, Gillespie’s opponent in the Republican primary. Specifically, in an April 2017 meeting with the Southwest Virginia Republican Women’s Club, Morgan stated, “it would be a shame — that I put [in] all the time I did, and all of you folks put in all the time you did…to send Donald Trump to Washington, D.C., to drain the swamp, and send a lobbyist to Richmond…That would be a disaster.”
Selling access and influence for money, the essence of lobbying, is legal in the private sector but a federal crime once in elected office…which makes you wonder what relevant experience Gillespie can bring to a position as Virginia Governor.
Perhaps Morgan was referring to the fact that selling access and influence for money, the essence of lobbying, is legal in the private sector but a federal crime once in elected office. Perhaps Morgan recognizes that Gillespie has spent most of the last 20 years practicing skills he can’t legally use if elected.
In this regard, it’s also useful to scan Gillespie’s employment timeline above for any mention of work at the state or local level. There’s little, if any, which makes you wonder what relevant experience Gillespie can bring to a position as Virginia Governor. With a one-term limit, we need a Governor who can hit the ground running, not someone who needs to learn on the job.
Ralph Northam served in the military from 1984 – 1992, practices as a pediatric neurologist, and has taught medicine and ethics as an assistant professor at Eastern Virginia Medical School. Among other volunteer activities, for 18 years, Northam has volunteered as medical director for the Edmarc Hospice for Children in Portsmouth, where he cares for terminally ill children.
From 2007 through 2013, Northam served as a state senator, and he was elected Lieutenant Governor in Virginia in 2013. According to the Virginia Constitution, this is not a ceremonial position. Rather,
“According to the Constitution of Virginia, the Lieutenant Governor’s official duties are to serve as President of the Senate and preside over the Senate. In addition to these Constitutional responsibilities, the Code of Virginia provides that the Lieutenant Governor shall serve as a member of several other state boards, commissions and councils, including the Board of Trustees of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation and the Center for Rural Virginia; the Board of Directors of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and the Virginia Tourism Authority; the Virginia Military Advisory Council, the Commonwealth Preparedness Council and the Council on Virginia’s Future.”
In essence, the Lieutenant Governor position is a training ground for the position of Governor, which is why three of the last eight Lieutenant Governors were elected to that position, most recently Tim Kaine.
Northam has ten years of state legislative experience, four years as the second highest elected executive in the state, and absolutely nothing to hide.
Gillespie has no state level experience, and little other experience he can use as Governor, at least legally. He also has more gaps in his online resume than the Nixon tapes, which really makes you wonder what else he isn’t telling us.
Which is a great lead into our next topic, Ed’s tax plan, which we’ll post next week. Here, Ed isn’t telling us that Kansas tried pretty much the same plan, and it failed miserably. Back in a week.