In Support of Ed Gillespie

Baruch Nutovic '19
Guest Columnist

Virginia is at a crossroads. The state’s economy has been underperforming for years, its fiscal standing has been marred by budget shortfalls, and far too many of Virginia’s children attend substandard schools. This year’s Virginia gubernatorial race offers the Commonwealth a choice between political grandstanding from the extreme left and Ed Gillespie’s bold agenda for education reform, job growth, and restoring the Commonwealth’s finances. 

Amid the never-ending furor that is today’s national political scene, state and local politics are often overshadowed. Yet in many ways, state politics has a more direct impact on our daily lives through policies impacting job creation, education, and public safety. It’s vitally important that Virginia’s politics not be dragged into the morass of D.C. politics, with its endless partisan political games that distract from the real job of our elected officials: serving the people. 

Unfortunately, D.C. politics has infected the Democratic primary, which has devolved into a shameless pandering contest. Instead of putting forward a positive vision for our state’s future, former Congressman Tom Perriello and Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam are competing to prove they are more extreme than the other. In their efforts to sway the hardline left-wingers who have gained power in the Democratic Party’s primaries, they’ve been tripping over each other in their efforts to bash President Trump the most aggressively.

Both are trying to make the election about Trump. Northam said the campaign is a referendum on the President, and claimed, “I’ve been in this for ten years really fighting for progressive values in Virginia against the very things Mr. Trump and his administration stand for,” referring to his tenure as a state senator and lieutenant governor. Perriello has described himself as a “firewall” against the Trump Administration. His comparison of Trump’s election to “a political and constitutional September 11,” probably takes the cake for the most extreme comment yet. He subsequently had to apologize.

There’s a problem for Perriello and Northam: their records belie their claims to be consistent anti-Trump progressives. Perriello now claims to be an abortion advocate, but when he was in Congress, he voted against federal funding for abortions. Northam may claim to have championed progressive causes for ten years, but he has long had a reputation as a fiscal conservative, so much so that Republicans were once actively courting him to switch parties. By his own admission, he voted for George W. Bush twice.

Perriello and Northam are also trying to make political hay out of vocal opposition to Trump’s immigration policies. But not so long ago, both were immigration hawks. Perriello famously said—in a debate at the University of Virginia no less—that illegal immigrants should be made to start “self-deporting.” Northam’s electioneering now has him backing radical measures like drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants, but just over a decade ago, he backed increased funding for local police to detain illegal immigrants. What lies behind much of the anti-Trump rhetoric is not principle, but political expediency of the kind that makes people cynical about politics. 

Ultimately, this election is not about Donald Trump. It’s about the issues that affect ordinary Virginians’ lives: issues like education, the economy, and public safety. Virginia does not need a governor focused on getting into juvenile political food fights or Twitter wars with the President. Virginia needs a governor focused on dealing with the issues that matter.

Ed Gillespie will be that kind of governor. He has been focused squarely on how to improve our state for years. For instance, last April, more than a year and a half before the election, he set up nine policy working groups to seek input from around the Commonwealth as he develops policy ideas. In a political world dominated by fluff and simplistic slogans, it’s refreshing to see a leader dedicate himself to substance. 

Gillespie’s focus on substance is badly needed because Virginia faces a number of pressing problems. In 2011, CNBC ranked Virginia the best state in the nation for business. By last year we had fallen all the way to 13th on the same metric. In the last three years, Virginia’s state business tax climate has dropped from 25th to 33rd in the nation according to the Tax Foundation. So it’s no surprise that in four of the last five years, Virginia’s economic growth has been anemic, at less than two percent. The state’s flagging economy, combined with government waste, has resulted in Virginia facing budget shortfalls of more than two billion dollars over the last two years. Far too many of Virginia’s kids from low-income backgrounds go to failing schools that lock them into poverty for life. 

Gillespie’s working groups are developing innovative approaches to fixing these and other vexing issues our state faces. He will help job creators by lowering taxes, getting rid of red tape, eliminating our chronic budget shortfalls, and making government more efficient. He has condemned the lack of educational opportunity in struggling areas of Virginia as “a failure at all levels of government,” and pledged greater school choice so that kids aren’t forced to attend bad schools just because of their zip code. 

Gillespie is passionate about expanding opportunity because of his own background as the son of immigrants. His father was a janitor, but through the opportunities America gave him, Ed rose to become a counselor to President Bush and a successful businessman. He wants all Virginians to have the chance to achieve their dreams, just like he did. Ed Gillespie is the kind of leader Virginia needs.