Gillespie raises $2.2 million during first quarter
Warner has $7 million on hand, Skelley says Warner still has advantage
Ed Gillespie, the likely Republican nominee for the Virginia Senate seat currently occupied by Mark Warner, recently announced his campaign raised $2.2 million in fundraising in the first quarter. Three out of five donations made to the Gillespie campaign were from Virginians, with donations coming from 89 different counties across the state.
Warner, D-Virginia, currently has $7 million cash on hand for the re-election effort. Center for Politics spokesperson Geoffrey Skelley said Warner remains in a strong position, but Gillespie is being taken seriously as a candidate.
“It indicates that Gillespie is a strong candidate as we [anticipated],” Skelley said. “Obviously, Mark Warner is a difficult incumbent to knock off — he’s still relatively popular and Gillespie trails pretty substantially in the polls.”
Skelley said Gillespie could pull off an upset victory if the national climate changes substantially.
“Essentially the national environment just has to get worse for Democrats — mainly the president’s approval rating has to get lower,” Skelley said. “Things like that could impact Warner negatively just because of his party identification and help Gillespie because of his party identification.”
Warner campaign spokesperson David Turner said Warner is staying focused on issues in the Senate for the time being.
“I think there’s plenty of time for campaigning, but right now he’s looking to find answers to some of the more pressing problems that face Virginia and the country as a whole,” Turner said.
Gillespie campaign spokesperson Paul Logan said the campaign is very optimistic and fundraising reports show Gillespie has been receiving support across Virginia.
“Ed has been traveling around Virginia meeting with voters, listening to them and sharing his ideas,” Logan said in an email. “We’re seeing great enthusiasm for Ed’s campaign across Virginia. It reflects the broad-base of support for someone who will be effective as a servant-leader on day one.”
Skelley said he expects Gillespie to try to link Warner to the president in his criticism on policy.
“Gillespie is going to try and tie Warner to the president as much as possible, particularly on the Affordable Care Act,” Skelley said. “He will point out that Warner has been a staunch supporter of President Obama while claiming to be kind of an independent voice for Virginia. Warner I think is taking the approach of ‘I agree with the president on a lot of things but I don’t agree with him on others,’ which is not necessarily a bad one in Virginia.”
Turner said Warner’s history of working with both parties to get legislation passed will be a focus of the campaign and is something citizens will support.
“We’re going to be focused on Senator Warner’s history of bipartisan legislation,” Turner said. “I think the people of Virginia know Senator Warner’s record, he has a reputation of being able to get a broad array of folks from different ideological backgrounds to agree on common ground. We feel really good about running on that, Senator Warner is going to continue talking about what he’s done and I think Virginia is going to respond to that.”
Logan said the economy, health care and other issues will also be a large focus of the Gillespie campaign.
“Across Virginia, the top concern is economic anxiety, with rising energy costs, skyrocketing health care premiums [and] uncertainty about future job prospects, especially for young people,” Logan said. “With the right policies, we can do better, and we will.”
Skelley said Warner is taking Gillespie’s challenge seriously.
“There’s a lot of reasons why Warner is probably going to win re-election — it’s just that Gillespie is a serious candidate who could potentially beat him if the circumstances are right,” Skelley said.