Ed Gillespie talks senate challenge in Virginia

Ed Gillespie has launched a campaign against incumbent Senator Mark Warner in Virginia. Though Warner has led steadily in many polls, the race has been branded a “sleeper” by analysts who believe Gillespie could pull off a surprise upset, and lead the GOP to control the Senate once again this fall.
Gillespie spoke to Human Events editor Allan Ryskind about how his campaign has been going and how he plans to overtake his liberal challenger in the volatile state:
Ed, how do you think you’re doing?  I saw one poll showing you’re still 9 points behind Senator Warner. Why do you think you can close the gap?
I feel momentum growing everywhere I go, and we’re on the air now which will have a big impact. More Virginians are realizing every day that Warner is not the pro-business Democrat and “radical centrist” he promised to be, having voted with President Obama 97% of the time.  One Democratic sheriff who had backed Warner in the past said this year that “When we need him, he’s hiding.” I’m grateful for the support of more than 50 donors who had previously given to Mark. The Virginia Police Benevolent Association endorsed him in 2008 but is now supporting me.
My agenda for economic growth is a sharp contrast to the Warner record. The Ed Gillespie Agenda for Economic Growth will ease the squeeze of lost jobs, stagnant wages, skyrocketing health-care costs and higher energy prices.  The election is important not only to our Commonwealth, but to our country. Because a change here would surely mean Republican control of the U.S. Senate for the last two years of the Obama presidency.
Despite your attack against him as a virtual clone of Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Warner has gone out of his way to say that he’s not one of the President’s “yes men,” claiming he’s opposed Obama on a number of issues.  
Warner can’t change his partisan voting record–although many Virginians wish he could. The fact that he votes with President Obama 97% of the timehas been substantiated by many objective sources, as is the fact that he said he’d be a fiscal moderate but voted for $7 trillion in new debt and nearly a trillion dollars in tax increases. He said that he would never vote for a bill that would mean losing your health plan, but he not only voted for ObamaCare, but helped push it through the Senate.  He supports cap-and-trade legislation and a carbon tax that would further increase electrical bills and gas prices and devastate our coal sector in Virginia. Warner’s press releases are very bipartisan, but his floor votes are very partisan.
What is your source for that 97% figure?
The 97% figure comes straight from the Senate floor. Just this month, when Senate Republicans and five Democrats came up one vote short of blocking President Obama from his planned executive actions on immigration, Warner sided with the President and Harry Reid. He’s a blank check for the President. I will be a check on Obama.
Warner acknowledges he voted for ObamaCare, but you say he did much more than that, that he “whipped” it in the Senate, even doing some arm twisting.
Warner organized his freshman Democratic colleagues in September of 2009 to pressure Congress to move the bill forward in floor speeches. That same month, Warner stood in front of 1,800 people at a town-hall meeting in Fredericksburg and said: “There is no plan being proposed that I will support that will force people out of their existing plan.”  At the same time, I was warning Americans that “this bill is a monstrosity” that would raise costs and disrupt our whole health-care system.” Senator Warner broke his promise. According to a new report, 250,000 more Virginians will be losing their existing coverage just this year. Thousands of Virginians have already received notices that their plans have been discontinued. Thousands of Virginia families will see double-digit increases in their premiums next year. I spoke to one woman in Danville who just got hit with a $600 per month premium increase for her family’s coverage. I asked how she plans to cover those costs and she said, “I don’t know.” I hear heartbreaking stories like hers every day on the campaign trail.
As senator, every vote I cast will be decided based on a simple question: “Will this bill ease the squeeze on hardworking Virginians and make it easier for unemployed Virginians to find work?” If it doesn’t meet this simple test, it’s not going to get my vote.
Here is one instance where Warner says he has an important difference with Obama. He says he favors the Keystone pipeline, which the President has refused to support, despite a virtual go-ahead from a State Department environmental study, backing from the unions which view the pipeline as an important creator of good-paying jobs and a thumbs up from the national security community which wants  the U.S. less dependent on foreign oil and natural gas. What’s your take on Warner’s claim that he’s a supporter?
In 2012, he had an opportunity to support the Keystone Pipeline but voted against an amendment to move it forward. In 2013, when he had the opportunity to vote for a non-binding resolution in support of it, he voted for it. This year he sponsored Keystone legislation, but then helped Senator Reid kill it. After five and a half years, Virginia voters are smart enough to realize that Warner and Majority Leader Harry Reid aren’t serious about moving forward critical projects like Keystone or unleashing American energy off our coast.
Two of the country’s most recognized business organizations, the National Federation of Independent Business and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have given Warner relatively low ratings in the past for a supposedly business-friendly lawmaker, lower than even many Democrats. Do you have the specifics?
Despite his promise to be a pro-business Democrat, Warner’s votes and support for job-killing policies have earned him a lifetime rating of 29% from the National Federation of Independent Business and an 86% rating from the AFL-CIO. It’s no wonder more businesses are closing than opening in Virginia now. I would vote to ease the burden on hardworking Virginians and small businesses.
Your first debate was in West Virginia.  Was Warner unwilling to debate in his home state? And are there more debates planned?
I’ve accepted eight debates in Virginia, but Warner has only accepted two. After asking Virginians to hold him accountable for his record when he ran for the Senate in 2008, he’s clearly uncomfortable defending his record or debating any positive agenda for economic growth.
Forty-six percent of recent college graduates are now unemployed or underemployed. We have the lowest labor force participation rate in 35 years. And in Virginia, since President Obama and Mark Warner took office together, we’ve had nearly twice as many people go on good stamps than net jobs created.