In the latest string of endorsements from Virginia Republican leaders, gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie announced support from former Gov. Bob McDonnell and several Hampton Roads area General Assembly members. The front runner in early polls, the former GOP chairman and U.S. Senate candidate is touting these endorsements as the latest signs of his campaign’s vitality around the Commonwealth.
“Ed Gillespie is a conservative leader with a vision and policy agenda that can unite all Virginians across the Commonwealth,” McDonnell said in a statement. “He understands that the first priority of the governor is to strengthen our economy and create opportunity for all Virginians. He has started to lay out a sweeping policy agenda that will put the Commonwealth on the right path.”
McDonnell’s endorsement comes at the expense of state Sen. Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach), who helped champion the former governor’s sweeping transportation bill in 2013 that invested billions in the Commonwealth’s infrastructure. In a phone interview March 20, Wagner dismissed the significance of the endorsement, saying he was still the only candidate who had the background in economic policy and transportation funding to best represent Virginia.
“Endorsements don’t get you back to work. Good policy and transportation funding does, which I have a track record of putting bill after bill, including this year, as a most recent example, of specifically helping Northern Virginia,” Wagner said.
The March 20 statement from the Gillespie campaign also touts endorsements from several General Assembly members including Del. Barry Knight (R-Virginia Beach), Del. Jason Miyares (R-Virginia Beach) and Sen. John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake). Wagner, a former Navy veteran and ship builder, has represented the Hampton Roads area for 26 years, and said losing these endorsements to Gillespie likewise didn’t concern him.
“Obviously I have my fair share of endorsements here, and in Northern Virginia,” Wagner said. “People don’t want to know about endorsements, they want to know what you’ll do for the economy, what are you going to do about jobs.”
The GOP field is down to three now, with Gillespie and Wagner joined by Prince William Board of Supervisor Chairman Corey Stewart. Business owner Denver Riggleman suspended his campaign last week and Rep. Rob Wittman ended his campaign in December of last year.
Republicans will select their statewide nominees in a primary on June 13.