It didn’t take long for the Virginia Senate race to get heated.
Roughly 24 hours after Ed Gillespie launched his bid for the Republican nomination to face Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the Virginia Democratic Party pounced, buying a handful of billboards around the commonwealth to attack Gillespie for his past work lobbying for the failed energy giant Enron.
“Do you really want Enron’s lobbyist to be your Senator?” asks one billboard. Another says: “He got $700,000 to lobby for Enron. 20,000 workers got a pink slip.” All three billboards — going up in Hampton Roads, Roanoke and Richmond — dub him “Enron Ed” and direct Virginians to a new anti-Gillespie Web site.
The billboards, the cost of which Democrats would not disclose, are an early look at their primary charge against Gillespie — that he is a lobbyist and Washington insider ill-suited to represent Virginia in the Senate. (Republicans leveled similar allegations against Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman, during his successful 2013 campaign.)
Gillespie, in turn, is attacking Warner for supporting the Affordable Care Act and voting for bills that ballooned the deficit.
“Mark Warner’s Senate record is so at odds with Virginians that Democrats would rather mislead about what Ed Gillespie was doing two jobs ago than face the facts about what Warner is doing in this job,” Gillespie spokesman Paul Logan said in response to the billboards.
Gillespie is one of three Republicans so far running to face Warner. GOP activists will decide at a June convention in Roanoke between Gillespie, financial planner Shak Hill and lobbyist and former Pentagon official Howie Lind.