- The Washington Times - Monday, November 27, 2006

Virginia Republicans say they expect Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, to be named the new head of the state party.

“I think he’s probably the nominee for that post,” Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a Gillespie supporter, told The Washington Times. “He’s got the background, knowledge and experiences to do the job.”

Republicans yesterday told The Times that Mr. Gillespie’s election appears imminent now that the other front-runners for the spot — former Lt. Gov. John H. Hager and Chuck Smith, chairman of Virginia Beach’s Republican Party — dropped out of the race last week in a telephone conference call with the state executive committee.

“I know of no one else whose name is still in the ring,” Mr. Smith said. “My understanding is that John Hager and I were the only other two names.”

“It was a pretty easy sell,” Attorney General Robert McDonnell said. “Ed is an extremely accomplished political figure. He is a proven winner from Northern Virginia who knows how to do grass-roots and raise money.”

Mr. Gillespie has lived in Virginia for 13 years.

The official election is scheduled for this weekend at the 23rd annual Donald W. Huffman Advance at the Homestead Resort in Hot Springs — a Republican retreat where grass-roots activists and elected officials kick off the 2007 state legislative campaign season.

Wayne “Bubba” Ozmore, chairman of the 4th Congressional District Committee, said that tapping Mr. Gillespie for the position would be like “putting a Formula One race car on a NASCAR track.”

“He’s built for speed and has run at high levels, but you can also get bumped and bruised on the NASCAR track, so it could be interesting,” he said.

A New Jersey native who started his career on Capitol Hill as a Senate parking lot attendant, Mr. Gillespie has built a strong reputation as a Republican strategist.

In 1994, he was a top aide to then-Rep. Dick Armey, Texas Republican, and helped draft Republicans’ “Contract with America,” which many credit with winning Republicans control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years.

In 2000, Mr. Gillespie served as a senior communications adviser for the presidential campaign of then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush and as communications director for his 2001 inauguration.

Mr. Gillespie was a campaign strategist for Sen. Elizabeth Dole in 2002. Mrs. Dole, North Carolina Republican, won by the biggest margin of victory of any Senate candidate in the state in more than 25 years.

From July 2003 to January 2005, he served as chairman of the Republican National Committee. He was the first chairman in 80 years to oversee the re-election of a Republican president while maintaining majorities in both chambers of Congress.

He currently works for Quinn Gillespie and Associates, a bipartisan political consulting firm he co-founded in Washington.

Mr. Gillespie’s anticipated selection as party chairman comes as Virginia Republicans mull over why they have fallen short in recent statewide races.

Democrats have won the last two gubernatorial elections, and James H. Webb Jr. secured Democratic control of the U.S. Senate by thwarting the re-election bid of Sen. George Allen, a Republican, this month.

Republicans say they must concentrate on keeping majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly. Next year, all 140 seats in the state Senate and House of Delegates are up for election.

The party also must be ready to replace Sen. John W. Warner if he decides to retire after his term ends in 2008 and field a viable candidate for the 2009 gubernatorial race.

Last week, Mr. Gillespie sent a letter to Virginia Republicans asking them to support his candidacy and outlining his vision for the state party.

He said Republicans must be a bottom-up party, foster unity within the party, increase fundraising operations and promote a positive message “that resonates with voters.”

“I am proud to be a Virginian,” he wrote in the letter. “I am proud to be a Republican. I would be proud to be Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, and would work hard to make you proud if you find me worthy of that position.”



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