Former national and state Republican chairman Ed Gillespie is one of four candidates seeking the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate from Virginia at a state party convention in Roanoke on Saturday, June 7.
The winner of the nomination contest – either Gillespie, Tony DeTora, Shak Hill, or Chuck Moss – will go on to face incumbent Senator Mark Warner (D-Alexandria) in November. Libertarian nominee Robert Sarvis may also be on the ballot, pending his meeting the petition requirements by the filing deadline of Tuesday, June 10.
Gillespie spoke to the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner on the sidelines of the Fifth Congressional District GOP convention at Hampden-Sydney College on May 17. He expressed his views about health care reform, Warner's vulnerabilities, his appeal to libertarian-leaning voters, and whether he will debate any ballot-qualified candidate during the election campaign.
Although the party canvass and convention process so far in 2014 has been fractious, Gillespie believes that “unity is possible.”
Republicans, he said, are “energized, they're excited.”
Gillespie pointed to “massive turnout at our district conventions and people getting energized and excited and coming into the process” as being “a good thing for us.”
With regard to the disputatious nature of the convention process, he said that “a little friction, a little tension here and there, that's a sign of a growing party. I would rather have the growing pains of a growing party than no pains of a shrinking party.”
Asked how he can earn the votes of libertarian-leaning Virginians in November, Gillespie asserted that “we have a lot of common ground with our libertarian-leaning members of our party and libertarian-leaning members of the electorate obviously. We are in favor of less government intrusion in our lives, we're in favor of lower taxes, we're in favor of stopping reckless spending, we want to get Obamacare out of making decisions about what our health insurance can be and who our doctors can be.”
He noted his view that, “if you believe in our constitutional principles of limited government and personal freedom, then anyone with a strong libertarian leaning needs to vote for our nominee come November.”
Gillespie would not, however, commit to debating any ballot-qualified candidate during the campaign. “I'd debate Mark Warner happily,” he said, but with regard to Robert Sarvis or any other possible Senate candidate, he demurred.
“I don't know. We'd have to look at that. Obviously, my focus is on Mark Warner,” Gillespie said.
Warner's vulnerabilities include “his job-killing policies, his voting with President Obama and Harry Reid 97 percent of the time,” the GOP hopeful said.
Warner, he continued, “didn't just vote for Obamacare, which kills jobs. He voted against an amendment to repeal the medical device tax --165,000 jobs right there. He's for cap-and-trade or a carbon tax. A cap-and-trade regime would cost Virginians alone 66,000 jobs. He has voted job killing policy after job-killing policy. The fact is, his policies have resulted in lost jobs, lower take-home pay, skyrocketing health-care costs, and higher energy prices.”
In contrast, he asserted, Republican policies, “based on free markets and free people, would result in more job creation and higher take-home pay, and lower health-care costs, and bringing down energy prices.”
Gillespie also summarized his views on how to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, sometimes called Obamacare.
Repeal and replace
“We need to repeal it because it's designed to get us to a single-payer system over time. We've got to repeal it and replace it with market-oriented reforms,” he said.
“I'm looking at a positive alternative to put forward for the people of Virginia. Some of the things I've been talking to people about are allowing for insurers to market across state lines. There's an artificial barrier there that doesn't exist in the auto market or the life insurance market. It shouldn't exist in the health insurance market.”
Gillespie also suggested a policy that would give “equal tax treatment for the employer or the employee, giving the employee more power in that regard. That would also help, so when you change jobs you wouldn't be at risk of losing insurance for a pre-existing condition.”
He pointed out the need for reform of medical malpractice laws, “which are driving up health care costs by virtue of defensive medicine practices or exorbitant awards. People need to be protected in our judicial process in the event of hospital error or doctor's error but we can do that without driving up the cost of health care.”
Gillespie also noted that medical savings accounts “hve been gutted by this administration” but should be “beefed up” instead.
He concluded his discussion of health-care policies by saying that he is “looking forward to talking about a positive alternative [to] replace Obamacare. People want to know what we're for as well as what we're against.”
He also expressed confidence about his chances of winning the nomination in Roanoke.
“I am very excited about the convention. I believe we're going to have a unifying convention in Roanoke; I think we can bring our party together. I'm very optimistic about how that's going and like our delegate count a lot.”
Saying he will support the eventual nominee “110 percent,” but adding that “ I'm hoping it's going to be me,” Gillespie concluded that “we have real momentum and a chance to unify our party for a big win in November.”