Republican Ed Gillespie said he believes the right policy reforms under his leadership can be beneficial for all Virginians in the long run.
Speaking with The Daily Progress editorial board last week, the gubernatorial candidate spoke about his policy proposals, growing the economy and recent conversations about rallies, public safety and Confederate statues in Charlottesville.
He discussed his stance on women’s reproductive rights and redistricting, as well.
Gillespie is facing Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam, the Democratic nominee, and Libertarian Cliff Hyra in the race for governor.
Gillespie, 56, said Nov. 7 will be the most important election “in our lifetime” in Virginia, claiming that current practices and policies are keeping the state from succeeding.
“We’re stuck and we’re not going to get unstuck unless we do things differently,” he said.
Gillespie said he believes that with the policies he’s put forward Virginia could see increases in economic growth and job creation, but he noted that it will have to be a long-term approach.
“First, I believe we have to bring down our individual income tax rates,” he said. “And what I put forward is a plan to cut our rates 10 percent across the board, phased in responsibly over three years, protect our AAA bond rating and protect core government functions.”
He added: “I think long term, the policies that I would put in place — the education reforms, the workforce and skills training reforms, the tax reforms, the reform of our state government, the opioid and heroin epidemic challenge and my plan for addiction recovery and mental health — I think I can get those things done, and I do think they would have a significant impact long term.”
On education, Gillespie talked about both the K-12 teacher shortage issue in Virginia, as well as charter schools.
He said it’s important that steps are taken to make it easier to become a teacher in Virginia — moving from five-year degree pathways in higher education to four-year — and that more needs to be done to increase teacher compensation to recruit and retain more teachers.
“Working with the colleges and universities to help make sure that we have a pipeline, as well as recruiting new teachers and retaining good, current teachers, is part of my K-12 reform plan that I put forward,” said Gillespie, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and lobbyist.
On the expansion of charter schools, Gillespie said he thinks it’s important for there to be more education options for parents and families.
“There’s a lot of ways that we can do this in an effective manner, but I think we need to have more options for parents, not fewer, and that public charters is one of the most attractive options that we could provide and would have the effect of improving our public schools,” he said.
Reflecting on the recent white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville, one of which turned deadly, Gillespie said there can be a balance between protecting both free speech and the safety of residents.
“There is a difference between speech and action, and there’s a difference between free speech and incitement of violence,” he said. “I think understanding where those differences lie and enforcing those laws is important.”
On Confederate statues and monuments, Gillespie said he thinks it’s a decision best left to localities, but he supports keeping the statues up that are on state property. And, personally, he said he believes the statues should stay up to preserve the history of Virginia, adding that they can and should be contextualized.
“I also think, in addition to preserving the statues and adding historical context, we should erect new statues that recognize Virginians who have been very much on the right side of history,” he said.
Gillespie said he is a pro-life candidate and does not support taxpayer funding going toward abortions.
“I’m pro-life, and my own view is that I am opposed to abortion but with exceptions for instances where the life of the mother is in danger or for rape or incest,” he said.
On redistricting, Gillespie said he understands the frustration over gerrymandering but said “you’re hard-pressed to find” a nonpartisan redistricting group that takes the politics out of drawing Virginia’s voting districts.
“I do understand the frustration, and if I were convinced that there were a system that would work to take the politics out of politics, I would be open to it,” he said.
After meeting with The Progress editorial board, news broke of a mailer promoting the statewide Democratic candidates that featured images of Gillespie and President Donald Trump over a photo of torch-wielding white nationalists marching in Charlottesville.
Gillespie’s campaign accused Democrats of exploiting the August tragedy and called for the mailers to be pulled, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.