RICHMOND — Former House speaker Newt Gingrich on Tuesday urged fellow Republicans across the country to support Ed Gillespie for governor of Virginia, calling the contest a chance to tamp down newly “engaged and enraged” Democrats.
In a fundraising pitch, Gingrich sought to bring national money into a closely watched race whose outcome could signal either GOP momentum in the Trump era — or Democratic resurgence in the 2018 midterm elections.
“Even if you don’t live in Virginia this race impacts you,” Gingrich says in an email. “If the Democrats are able to say they won in 2017 — it will have huge implications for 2018. It will make it harder for Republicans running in your home state to win next year … We must keep the momentum we had in 2016 and stand with Ed right now.”
Gillespie, a former White House adviser to President George W. Bush and a Republican National Committee chairman, is in a four-way race in the June 13 GOP primary. He faces Corey A. Stewart, the Prince William County supervisor who led Donald Trump’s campaign for most of last year; state Sen. Frank W. Wagner (R-Virginia Beach); and distillery owner Denver Riggleman.
On the Democratic side, two candidates are vying to succeed term-limited Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) — Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and former congressman Tom Perriello.
Virginia’s gubernatorial race always draws national money and attention as one of just two held the year after presidential elections. (The other is New Jersey.) Gingrich predicts that will be especially so this year given the Democrats’ heated reaction to many of President Trump’s early actions in the White House.
“The Democrats are enraged and engaged right now,” Gingrich says in the email. “They are kicking and screaming about every policy change that threatens their power structure … There aren’t many races for them to turn their attention to this year except for a pretty big one happening right across the river from Washington, DC. The Virginia Governor’s race … What was already going to be an expensive and watershed race has now become even more so. The Democrats are itching to say they were able to defeat a Republican right now and liberals are about to throw MILLIONS into Virginia to do just that.”
Gingrich, who as House speaker led the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, used the email to invoke McAuliffe’s ties to the former president and Hillary Clinton, who lost the presidential campaign to Trump.
“Ed is a great guy,” Gingrich says. “He’s a stand-up conservative who, if elected, will help strengthen Virginia’s economy and undo the wrongs done by liberal Governor (and Clinton crony) Terry McAuliffe.”
At another point, he says: “Remember, Ed is looking to replace Terry McAuliffe who is one of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s best friends.”
Gingrich has his own controversial history, as the Democratic Party of Virginia noted in a statement issued in response to his endorsement.
“Ed Gillespie’s latest Republican backer is best known for shutting down the government, plummeting the Virginia economy and promoting a social agenda that was even too unhinged to share the stage with Donald Trump,” party spokeswoman Christina Freundlich said in an email. “Gillespie needs to reevaluate his Washington rolodex and start prioritizing an agenda that puts Virginia first.”