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GOP operative Ed Gillespie announces bid for Virginia U.S. Senate seat

Gillespie, the former head of the Republican National Committee, takes aim at U.S. Mark Warner’s vote for Obamacare

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

virginia mugRICHMOND (CFP) — High-powered Republican political operative Ed Gillespie is off and running for the U.S. Senate seat in Virginia with a direct swipe at Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Warner’s vote in favor of Obamacare.

Virginia Senate hopeful Ed Gillespie

Virginia Senate hopeful Ed Gillespie

Announcing his Senate run January 16 with a YouTube video, Gillespie, a top aide in the Bush White House and the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, notes that Warner “cast the deciding vote” for Obamacare, adding, “If I were a Virginia senator, it would not be law today.”

However, adding a bit of nuance to his argument, Gillespie says he would replace Obamacare, rather than saying he would repeal it.

In his announcement video, Gillespie highlights his first job in Washington — working as a parking lot attendant in the Senate while working his way through Catholic University of America.

“I’m running for the Senate because the American dream is being undermined by policies that move us away from constitutional principles of limited government and personal liberty,” says Gillespie, who also hits Warner for voting for “nearly $1 trillion in new taxes and $7 trillion in new federal debt.”

The president’s signature healthcare bill passed in 2009 with 60 votes, the minimum required to get around a GOP fililbuster.  Republicans running in 2014 against Democratic senators who voted for the bill are all being tagged with casting the deciding vote.

Though he has never held elected office, Gillespie, 52, is a consummate Washington insider. He was a communications strategist for President George W. Bush’s winning campaign in 2000 and went on to serve as head of the RNC and a White House counselor.

In April 2012, after Mitt Romney was finally able to claim the Republican presidential nomination, he signed on as a senior adviser to the Romney campaign.

Gillespie also has a long association with Karl Rove, the Bush political consigliere who has frequently drawn the ire of the party’s Tea Party wing. He held Rove create Crossroads GPS, the super-PAC that has backed establishment candidates facing Tea Party insurgencies.

Gillespie’s entry into the Senate race sets up a class establishment-versus-Tea Party struggle within Republican ranks in the Old Dominion. Two former military officers, Howie Lind of McClean and Shak Hill of Centreville, are already in the race, running as outsiders and seeking Tea Party support.

Unlike in most states, Republicans in Virginia select their nominees with a party convention, rather than a primary. That could level the playing field for an outsider candidate who can develop a strong cadre of supporters to turn out at the convention, which will be held in June in Roanoke.

Lind’s campaign is touting the results of a “grassroots voter contact program” which it says shows Lind with substantially more support than either Gillespie or Hill. The campaign also says it has already raised $300,000 for the race.

U.S. Senator Mark Warner

U.S. Senator Mark Warner

Whoever wins the GOP nomination will face the formidable Warner, 59, a former governor and self-made millionaire who already has more than $7 million in cash on hand for the 2104 race — a huge head start over any of the Republicans in the field.

Both The Rothenberg Political Report and Cook Political Report classify Warner’s seat as safely in Democratic hands. Obama carried Virginia twice, and Democrats swept all three of the state’s top offices in the 2013 elections for the first time since 1969,

In a curious parallel to Gillespie, Warner also worked his way through The George Washington University at the Senate, although as an aide rather than as a parking lot attendant.

View Gillespie’s YouTube announcement:

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