From a majority of candidates interviewed by The Daily Progress for a number of races, we’ve heard that the economy is the state’s top issue during this election.

Virginia’s economy is growing, but slowly: The commonwealth isn’t bouncing back from recession as strongly as it has following previous downturns. As a result, Virginia is losing economic advantage compared to other states.

The unemployment rate looks positive — but underemployment is a strong negative. Many people must make do with stop-gap jobs. Others must work two or three jobs just to make ends meet.

Virginia’s apparently encouraging growth and unemployment figures therefore seem to be veneered over a base of economic uneasiness and dissatisfaction.  

Therefore, we take the issue of economic vitality as our No. 1 guidance in making our endorsement for governor. And we believe Ed Gillespie has the best chance of leading Virginia to a brighter economic future.

Why?

In basic political terms, because he is of the same party as the majority of state legislators and will be able to work with them.

He’s already laid the groundwork for that cooperation by involving lawmakers in the creation of his economic development plans and other proposals. That’s a smart strategic move that will give the new governor a jump start on implementing his programs.

But of course implementation itself is of no benefit — quite the opposite — if the programs themselves are injurious.

Mr. Gillespie’s overall philosophy is that a wise government should support the conditions in which businesses can thrive and in which Virginians can to keep more of their hard-earned money — a premise with which we agree.

Mr. Gillespie would promote regional approaches to development, such as GO Virginia; emphasize technology growth, including the tech and bio-tech business accelerator projects in and around Charlottesville; push for “workforce transformation” opportunities to help workers qualify for today’s jobs; collaborate with schools and universities to improve workforce readiness; enact policies to help Virginia businesses capture more venture capital; and advance efforts to create ready-to-build sites throughout Virginia, since many industry prospects are seeking such locations — and competitor states are providing them.

Although Virginia’s several agencies dealing with growth and the economy deserve support, one area that needs restraint — or at least better guidance — is the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. This is the agency that has made so many bad grants in recent years, including losing $1.4 million in state money to a fake Chinese company. Mr. Gillespie plans to ensure that the VEDP receives needed oversight.

There are other issues, certainly — and on these Mr. Gillespie doesn’t always land on the spot that might be expected of a long-time Republican. For instance, he has a detailed proposal to help address sea-level rise, which of course means he acknowledges it as a given.

Democrat Ralph Northam and Libertarian Cliff Hyra are also impressive candidates and are dedicated to the betterment of Virginia.

But we urge voters to look more closely at Ed Gillespie, by visiting his website and studying his 19-point action plan. They might be, as we were, pleasantly surprised.

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