Less than five months after he announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for Virginia Senate, Ed Gillespie took the Virginia GOP Convention in Roanoke, VA by storm Saturday, beating his opponent Shak Hill by 2-1 on the first ballot. The former RNC chairman and longtime Republican strategist announced mere weeks ago that his campaign pulled in an impressive $3 million in its early, pre-Convention months.
Key Fundraising Statistics Since First Quarter Report
- Over 1,000 new donors
- 4 out of 5 individual donors are from here in Virginia
- Donors reside in 97 of Virginia’s 133 counties and independent cities
- 724 donations of $100 or less totaling over $35,000
The night before the RPV Convention took place, Congressman Paul Ryan joined Gillespie at his hospitality suite in Roanoke where he praised the soon-to-be nominee saying he possesses “the experience and skills necessary to help advance conservative ideals.”
Unlike last years Virginia GOP Convention which was literally a circus (Check out my write up here), this year Virginian’s seem more united around Ed Gillespie, and what they believe he will be able to do for Virginia if he beats incumbent Sen. Mark Warner (D) this November.
In a detailed account of the Convention, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports the following:
At 2:50 p.m., less than 90 minutes after voting began, Gillespie’s top rival, Shak Hill, conceded the nomination to Gillespie.
“I am so honored and I accept your nomination,” Gillespie told about 2,700 delegates at the Roanoke Civic Center.
He said of Hill’s concession: “It is a very gracious step towards unifying our party.”
“We will be together in the end,” Giillespie said. “We are bound to have a victory in November. All of you who were not for me, I respect that, and I thank you for your participation, and now I ask you to please join team Gillespie, we want you and we need you.”
Gillespie was far ahead on the first ballot when Hill, a military combat veteran from Northern Virginia, conceded.
“It’s time we start speaking with one voice,” Hill said. “We have to send a message loud and clearly – the days of Democrats are over. We did a spirited battle in a fair and honorable way.”
Before the delegates began voting, Gillespie told the crowd that taking control of the Senate could ride on the Virginia outcome.
“We know that this Virginia Senate race will have a national impact,” he told delegates, who chanted: “We want Ed.”
“It won’t just mean that Warner will become the former senator from Virginia, it also means that Harry Reid will become the former Senate majority leader,” Gillespie said.
“Liberals would have us believe that this mediocre economy is the new normal and the best that we can do. Nonsense. This economy is not a matter of fate but the result of Obama’s policies, and Mark Warner has voted with him 97 percent of the time,” he said.
Gillespie’s victory over three rivals, which hardly surprised political observers, is a step in the GOP’s grand plan to retake control of the U.S. Senate.
Although the 2013 election in Virginia was– to put it mildly– a bit of a let down for the GOP who lost the races for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General (all of which were previously held by Republicans), many believe 2014 will be a year of redemption.
Last year, Terry McAuliffe’s constant attacks on Ken Cuccinelli as being “anti-women” unfortunately worked. However, this year Sen. Warner, who has often been referred to as “Obama’s rubber stamp” because he’s voted with him 97% of the time since he became Senator in 2009 (which Politifact confirmed as “True”), will face a much harder race.
Back in January, Sen. Warner’s seat was viewed as “safe” by UVA Professor and Political Analyst Larry Sabato. However, shortly after Ed Gillespie announced his run, Mr. Sabato changed his prediction from “safe” to “likely D.” Similarly, many polls concerning the race prior to Gillespie announcing his campaign had Sen. Warner with a strong 30 point lead and the undoubted winner of 2014.
Recent polls have Warner’s lead as small as 5 points. With Ed Gillespie’s domination at today’s RPV Convention, it’s clearer than ever that the 2014 Virginia Senate race is wide open.