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Gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie speaks with College Republicans

Q&A event highlights Virginia’s 2017 gubernatorial race

<p>Gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie participated in a Q&A-style meeting with the College Republicans.</p>

Gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie participated in a Q&A-style meeting with the College Republicans.

The College Republicans hosted gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie Wednesday for a Q&A-style event.

Gillespie, a former White House counselor to President George W. Bush, ran as the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2014. The campaign was against incumbent Democratic senator and former governor Mark Warner. However, Gillespie lost the race 48.3 percent to 49.1 percent — a margin of about 17,000 votes.

Gillespie said he is running on a platform of economic reform, noting a lack of jobs opportunities in the commonwealth.

“We need economic growth, we need to make it easier for a small business to open up and an existing business to expand,” Gillespie said. “I want to make sure that we are creating jobs, raising take home pay and helping bring people out of poverty with policies based on conservative principles.”

College Republicans member Hank Rosser, a first-year College student, attended the event and said he thinks Gillespie’s policies will help the commonwealth’s economic growth.

“I appreciate the work he has put into creating economic policies that will vie to fix the current stagnant position of Virginia’s economy,” Rosser said. “I feel his campaign will thrive in the future as he continues to adapt and incorporate elements that will benefit all parts of Virginia from the southwestern tip to the eastern shore.”

Obamacare was also a key topic, with the Republican-controlled Congress almost certain to repeal the law that became such a big issue in Gillespie’s 2014 senate run.

Gillespie said the Affordable Care Act damages the commonwealth and said he has had a replacement plan since his run in 2014. His replacement plan, however, would keep certain parts of the law, such as the health plan for children.

University Democrats President Brett Curtis, a third-year Curry student, said Gillespie’s past loss is a reason for him to not be elected.

“Virginians already recently rejected Ed Gillespie’s extremist policies and ideology when we re-elected Mark Warner for Senate in 2014,” Curtis said in an email statement. “Gillespie was not the right choice to represent Virginia in D.C. nor is he right for the governor’s mansion in Richmond.”

Although there is a Republican primary race, College Republicans do not officially endorse a candidate until one is chosen for the general election. In the meantime, they host a plethora of events such as this one to showcase candidates and their values, Alison Hiestand, chair of College Republicans and third-year College student, said.

“We are trying to get as many candidates for the Republican primary as possible,” Hiestand said. “We don’t really take sides during the primaries because we may be working with some of these people in the future, regardless of where they end up.”

Hiestand said an event with candidate and state Sen. Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach) will be rescheduled due to a sudden conflict. She also said candidates Corey Stewart — who is the Prince William County Board of Supervisors chairman — and distillery owner Denver Riggleman have also expressed interest in holding a similar event at the University.

Lt. Governor Ralph Northam and former congressman Tom Perriello are seeking the Democratic Party nomination for governor.