RICHMOND — Former White House adviser and Republican U.S. Senate nominee Ed Gillespie has created a political action committee as part of his plan to run for Virginia governor in 2017.
The formation of Gillespie’s Let’s Grow, Virginia! PAC comes a month after the Republican confirmed that he would seek his party’s nomination for governor.
“This is the next step in the process of Ed preparing to run for governor in 2017,” said Chris Leavitt, who managed Gillespie’s unsuccessful U.S. Senate bid last year and currently serves as an informal adviser. “The positive response to Ed’s interest in that race has been truly overwhelming, and Let’s Grow, Virginia! will enable us to capture that energy and interest to help Republicans win elections all across the commonwealth while also looking forward to the 2017 campaign.”
The PAC does not yet have a Web site or staff, but its first two fundraisers are in the works for Dec. 7 in Northern Virginia and Dec. 10 in Richmond. Details, including locations and ticket prices, had not been determined.
Gillespie is a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and counselor to President George W. Bush. He nearly unseated U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) last year in a closer-than-expected race, winning him fans across what at times has been a deeply fractured state party. He has further endeared himself to party activists by vigorously campaigning in recent elections for Republican candidates — up and down the ballot and all across the state.
Gillespie still could face competition for the nomination, particularly if a conservative favorite such as former attorney general Ken Cuccinelli II gets into the race. Cuccinelli, who narrowly lost the 2013 governor’s raced to Democrat Terry McAuliffe, has said he has not ruled out a run. Several conservative officeholders also have expressed interest.
The Republican Party of Virginia currently plans to pick its nominee at a convention, a day-long event that favors conservatives because it tends to draw only the most committed activists. Gillespie, though an establishment favorite, still managed to win the Senate nomination at a convention.
On the Democratic side, Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam is the only candidate so far running to succeed the term-limited McAuliffe.