Meet Your 2017 Virginia Gubernatorial Republican Candidates: Gillespie, Stewart and Wagner
Vann Allen Vitug and Justin L.C. Ross | Contributing Writers
Republican gubernatorial candidates Ed Gillespie, Corey Stewart and Frank Wagner kick their campaigns into high gear as the 2017 Virginia Republican and Democratic primaries on June 13 draw nearer.
Ed Gillespie, the favorite to win the nomination, is a seasoned politician. He worked on John Kasich’s 1999 presidential bid as Press Secretary, and more notably worked under President George W. Bush as the Republican National Committee Chairman in 2003.
Gillespie runs on a platform that seems typical for conservative Republicans. Gillespie is against Obamacare, believing in a “repeal and replace” approach concerning the matter and is pro-life, having participated in the 2017 March for Life earlier this year in January.
He also supports increasing federal spending on infrastructure, believing that federal regulation slows down progress on projects such as the Keystone Pipeline.
One of Gillespie’s ideas, that particularly affects Hampton Roads the most, is to increase federal spending on the defense budget, specifically on naval ships.
The men and women working with Gillespie’s campaign have greatly enjoyed the experience due to their admiration for their candidate. “I enjoyed working as the Hampton Roads Regional Field Director for Ed Gillespie’s campaign for Governor,” said Andrew Hull. “He’s truly a person of character and this campaign is always an adventure.”
However, their campaign is not without its own problems, most notably with voter engagement. “The main problem we’ve been running into has been voters not even realizing there was an election this year,” said Hull. He explains that the 2016 presidential elections has been a factor. “I assume it has to do with political fatigue after the circus that was the 2016 presidential election,” said Hull.
Despite the hurdles they have had to jump, Hull still believes in their campaign. “What sets the Gillespie campaign apart is that the field staff will outwork everyone else in the race,” Hull said. “They are dedicated and have been going all out for months.”
Hull also commented on the Gillespie campaign strategy. “Gillespie is running a positive, idea-focussed campaign and avoiding the negativity, personal attacks, lies, and pandering theatrics that his chief opponent, Corey Stewart, engages in,” Hull said.
Corey Stewart is the current Chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors and has since ran for Lieutenant Governor in 2013, having lost to E.W. Jackson. Now, Stewart sets his eyes on the position of Governor for Virginia.
“I’ve known Corey since he ran for Lieutenant Governor in 2013. I liked his positions across the board,” said Waverly Woods, Corey Stewart’s Hampton Roads Regional Director. “Corey Stuart represents limited government.” As opposed to Gillespie, Stewart has consistently advocated for significant reductions in government spending, advocating for lower tax rates across the board.
Instead, Stewart appeals to the small business owners of Virginia. “The small business community loves Corey,” Woods said. “He gives all businesses equal treatment.”
Woods explains that their campaign reaches out to the working class of Virginia.
This is a people driven campaign,” Woods said, “This is for conservatives who have felt they don’t have a voice, and they’ve just been coming out of the woodwork. They’re tired of the status quo.”
The main issue Stewart’s campaign faces deals with their amount of manpower. “Every campaign says they need more volunteers, more interns. I think that’s a staple of every campaign,” Woods said.
However, Stewart’s campaign faces their adversity head on. “I’m thrilled with how this campaign deals with negative press. It doesn’t dishearten us at all.” said Woods.
Frank Wagner is the third candidate running for the nomination. He is a member of the Virginia Senate from the 7th district, representing Norfolk and Virginia Beach.
In the senate, Wagner works on the Commerce and Labor, General Laws and Technology, Rehabilitation and Social Services and Transportation committees. Because of this, Wagner’s expertise on energy policy is unmatched by his political opponents.
Wagner is the only one in the race with military experience, having served in the United States Naval Forces from 1973 to 1982.
According to internship organizer Becky Wilson, Wagner has four interns in the Norfolk area. They are using social media and phone banking to increase Wagner’s support but won’t be doing any canvassing until after the primary (if he wins). Their office will hire many more interns if Wagner wins the primary.
Wagner’s campaign relies mostly on his charismatic charm. On the office’s strategy for swaying Republican voters toward Wagner, Wilson said, “Once he [Wagner] talks to people, they pretty much always turn to his side.”
Each candidate has a different vision for Virginia’s future. Gillespie wants to utilize the position to increase spending on our naval forces, bringing more jobs to Hampton Roads. Stewart wishes to reduce taxes, easing the burden on the working class. Wagner wishes to use his experience in energy policy to improve Virginia’s infrastructure.
The Virginia Republican Gubernatorial Race has been a cutthroat competition, however, only one candidate can win the Republican nomination at the primaries come June 13.