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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, Chickenfriedp0litics.com 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:

Republican operative Ed Gillespie eyeing Virginia U.S. Senate race

Gillespie, a former Republican National Commitee chief and aide to President George W. Bush, may take on Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Warner

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitcs.com editor

virginia mugNORFOLK, Virginia (CFP) — Ed Gillespie, a high-level Washington GOP political operative, is considering running for the U.S. Senate seat in Virginia now held by Democrat Mark Warner.

Ed Gillespie

Ed Gillespie

Gillespie, speaking to the Virginian-Pilot newspaper January 5 after meeting with Republican activists in Norfolk, said he has concluded that Warner can be beaten and will decide whether to run by early February.

“I have concluded it is a winnable race,” Gillespie said.

Should Gillespie run, it would set up a classic establishment-versus-Tea Party struggle within Republican ranks in the Old Dominion. Two former miltary officers, Howie Lind of McClean and Shak Hill of Centreville, are already in the race, running as outsiders and playing for Tea Party support.

Also, Virginia Republicans select their candidates through a 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.

U.S. Senator Mark Warner

U.S. Senator Mark Warner

Whoever wins the GOP nomination will face the formidable Warner, a former governor who already has more $7 million in cash on hand for the 2014 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.

Gillespie told the Virginian-Pilot that he thinks Warner is vulnerable because he has voted with President Obama “97 percent of the time.”

However, Virginia is no longer reliably Republican as it once was. Obama carried the state twice, and GOP candidates lost all three statewide races in 2013.

Although he has never sought office before, Gillespie, 52, is the connsumate Washington insider. He was a communications strategist in Bush’s winning campaign in 2000 and went on to chair the Republican National Committee. In 2007, he became a counselor in the Bush White House.

In April 2012, after Mitt Romney was finally able to claim the Republican presidential nomination, Gillespie 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 helped Rove create Crossroads GPS, the super-PAC that has backed establishment candidates facing Tea Party insurgencies.

U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin’s decision not to seek a third term opens door for Arkansas Democrats

Griffin’s Little Rock-based district is the least Republican in the Natural State

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics editor

arkansas mugLITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (CFP) — GOP U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin’s surprise announcement October 21 that he would not seek re-election has given Democrats hope that they might be able to capture his seat after going 0-for-4 in House races in the Natural State in 2012.

Just a day after Griffin stepped aside, former North Little Mayor Pat Hays announced that he will seek the Democratic nomination for the 2nd District seat. The popular Hays served six terms as mayor of North Little Rock, the second-largest city in the district, before retiring in 2012.

In a kickoff speech in front of a senior center named for him, Hays, 66, said he was spurred into running for Congress by the recent government shutdown.

“Sixteen days in October was a travesty,” Hays said. “Real people are affected when you have the kind of action those 16 days gave us.”

Other Democrats are considering the race, including former Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter, who dropped out of the 2014 governor’s race this past summer. No Republicans have announced so far.

U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin

U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin

Griffin, a former U.S. Attorney and aide to Karl Rove in the Bush White House, won his seat in the Republican landslide in 2010 and easily won re-election in 2012. His decision not to seek a third term – at a time when he had $500,000 in campaign cash on hand — surprised the Arkansas political establishment.

In a statement announcing his decision, Griffin said he and his wife “have decided that now is the time for me to focus intently on my top priority, my family, as Elizabeth and I raise our two young children.”

The 2nd District includes eight counties in Central Arkansas, including the state’s largest county, Pulaski, which contains Little Rock. While Mitt Romney carried the district in 2012 with 55 percent of the vote, President Obama carried Pulaski County, giving Democrats hope that they might be competitive in the district.

Until Griffin won the seat in 2010, the 2nd District had been traditionally Democratic. For nearly 40 years, it was the home base of the legendary Wilbur Mills, and from 1997 until 2011, it was held by Vic Snyder.

In 2012, Republicans for the first time carried all four of Arkansas’s congressional seats. With Griffin’s departure, two of those seats are now open. The other is the 4th District, in southern and western Arkansas, which is now held by Rep. Tom Cotton, who is giving up the seat to run for the Senate.

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