Eight years after he left the governorship of Virginia and one year after losing a U.S. Senate race in the Old Dominion State, Jim Gilmore is back in the wars: the board of directors of the Free Congress Foundation has just elected Gilmore as president and chief executive officer of the foundation started and run by the late conservative activist Paul Weyrich.
“We will keep the organization going strong and I will be speaking out on key issues,” Gilmore told me, noting that the “leftward move of the Administration necessitates strong conservative voices on the values issues Paul Weyrich championed so forcefully and, most importantly today, on health care, cap and trade and the giant deficits.”
The selection of Gilmore, also a former prosecutor and state attorney general of Virginia, ends a year of speculation as to who would take over the foundation launched by Weyrich, who died in December of ’08 and was by far one of the best-known of modern conservative leaders.
Weyrich was perhaps best-known for mobilizing evangelical conservatives and “values voters” into the political mainstream. One longtime Virginia conservative pointed out to me recently Weyrich was known for holding candidates to rigid standards on the cultural issues and had occasionally criticized fellow Virginian Gilmore for not being pro-life enough.
“Not everyone agrees on everything within the conservative movement,” Gilmore told me, “And when someone criticized my record on abortion, I would just point to my record on pro-life issues as governor and the appointments I made to the state judiciary. I would say that a fair examination of that record shows I have the best record on pro-life of any Virginia governor.”
But Gilmore believes the most serious issues to be addressed by the modern conservative movement deal with spending, taxes, and regulation.
“The current Administration is out to run everything from Washington,” he said, “and we have to stop it. That’s the agenda for conservatives today.”
Regarding his own defeat at the hands of Democrat Mark Warner in the Senate race last year, Gilmore said: “I got caught up in the voter rejection of the Bush Administration and was running against a candidate who had personal wealth and could raise a lot of money.” But, he added, “those were circumstances limited to ’08. Look what happened in ’09 when Republicans won all three statewide offices in Virginia and gained seats in the state legislature. That’s a turnaround
“I may have lost. But now, I’m back to help.”
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