The Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation’s president formally announced his support for former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie in his 2017 bid for governor of Virginia Tuesday.
Rick Buchanan’s move to endorse Gillespie is significant because of Gillespie’s strong establishment background. Gillespie served as adviser to Gov. John Kasich during his 1999 White House bid, before serving on the campaign of former President George W. Bush.
Gillespie later became the chairman of the RNC in 2003, and served during Bush’s presidential reelection campaign. He also presided over an era when Republicans maintained control of the House and Senate.
The Tea Party of Virginia threw its support behind Republican dark horse Dave Brat during the height of its influence in 2014, working hard to unseat then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, one of the leading establishment politicians on Capitol Hill at the time.
The economics professor from Randolph-Macon College now serves on the highly influential House Committee on the Budget, as well as the Committee on Education and the Workforce and Committee on Small Business.
“Ed is a true movement conservative. He is an ardent advocate for religious liberty, our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, private property rights, and the protection of innocent human life,” Buchanan wrote for The Bull Elephant. “As Governor, Ed will advance policies based on these principles. He knows that we must reform our schools and give parents greater control over our children’s education. He will put an end to McAuliffe’s rolling blanket restoration of rights to violent felons.”
Buchanan cites Gillespie’s stunning 2014 Senate run that smashed polling predictions and pundit expectations both in Virginia and in Washington, D.C.
“Ed is a tireless campaigner who has proven he can share our conservative ideas in a way that appeals to all Virginians,” Buchanan wrote. “In 2014, he unified our party to nearly defeat the supposedly unbeatable Mark Warner, despite being abandoned by the national party and so-called conservative super PACs. He can again bring all Republicans – and all Virginians – together to win in 2017.”
Gillespie tweeted the link to the endorsement and thanked Buchanan.
— Ed Gillespie (@EdWGillespie) December 6, 2016
Gillespie lost the election by little more than 16,000 votes, despite polling around 10 points behind Democratic Sen. Mark Warner just days before the election. Gillespie was also severely underfunded compared to the Warner campaign, according to The Center for Responsive Politics. The group’s website, Opensecrets.org, states that Warner raised $17,098,544, compared to Gillespie’s $7,894,669 during the course of the campaign.
The 2017 Republican field is already crowded, with former Virginia chairman for the Trump campaign Corey Stewart entering the mix. State Sen. Frank Wagner from Virginia Beach is also interested in running, as is Rep. Rob Wittman.
The latest publicly available poll in the race was published in September from Mary Washington University, and revealed Gillespie led with 19 percent. Wagner followed with 15 percent of the vote, Wittman carried 8 percent, and Stewart rounded out the pack with 6 percent of the vote.
Gillespie has a tough road to the nomination. Although he is in the best polling position of any other Republican in the field, 71 percent of respondents in the poll reported they didn’t have enough information about Gillespie in order to form an opinion on his record.
Corey Stewart staged a protest at the door of the RNC in October along with the group “Women for Trump,” and was fired by the Trump campaign for participating. “The Republican establishment, as epitomized by the RNC, has betrayed Mr. Trump and in doing so have betrayed the grassroots,” Stewart told The Daily Caller at the time.
Stewart published an opinion piece on TheDC Friday entitled, “Corey Stewart Won’t Back Down On Immigration.”
Editor’s Note: The headline originally suggested the organization endorsed Ed Gillespie and has been updated to reflect that its president endorsed him.
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