- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 14, 2017

Virginia gubernatorial hopeful Ed Gillespie vowed to be “very strong” on immigration if he wins this year’s election, saying he’ll encourage use of the federal 287(g) program that enlists state and local police to help enforce immigration laws.

Mr. Gillespie told The Washington Times that he opposes “sanctuary cities” as well as granting illegal immigrants driver’s licenses and in-state tuition rates for state colleges and universities.

“I think 287 (g) makes sense and that more of the areas of Virginia — the municipalities, the cities and the counties — you know should exercise that option,” he said during a recent interview in his Alexandria campaign office.

Asked whether state police should participating in the program, Mr. Gillespie said he had not been asked that question before, but said he is open to the idea. “Yeah, sure,” he said.

Mr. Gillespie is running against Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart and state Sen. Frank Wagner in the June 13 Republican primary race.

Mr. Stewart pushed his county to sign up for the 287(g) program, and it remains the only jurisdiction in Virginia that takes part in the program, which President Trump has vowed to expand. Mr. Stewart says every locality should be required to take part in the program.

Indeed Mr. Stewart, who served as state chairman of the Trump campaign before getting fired, says Mr. Gillespie isn’t strong enough on immigration enforcement, and has dubbed him “Establishment Ed” for his long ties to the national GOP.

Mr. Gillespie served as chairman of the Republican National Committee during part of President George W. Bush’s first term, then later joined the White House just as the president was ending his ill-fated effort to pass a legalization bill for illegal immigrants.

Polls show Mr. Gillespie, who also has been Virginia GOP chairman, is leading the primary race by double-digits.

An intense battle is playing out on Democratic side, where Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and former Rep. Tom Perriello are battling for liberal voters with pledges to, among other things, grant illegal immigrants driver’s licenses and promote sanctuary cities.

“They are too hard left for Virginia,” Mr. Gillespie said, warning either Democrat would raise taxes, scrap the state’s right-to-work laws, and hinder development of oil and gas resources off the state’s coast.

“In the past, Democratic candidates for governor would at least pretend that they were business friendly and that their policies were going to be focused on making us a good state to do business and to open and grow a business,” he said.

Disappointed with the state’s sluggish economic growth, Mr. Gillespie is calling for an across the board 10 percent cut in income taxes and he says that the loss in revenue from the first overhaul of incomes since 1972 would be offset by an increase in economic growth. He plans to save $200 million over the course of his four-year term by eliminating waste, streamlining programs and nixing more than 1,000 state jobs through attrition.

He told The Times he would also require state agencies and companies that do business with Virginia to use the E-Verify program, run by the federal government, that checks to make sure new employees aren’t ineligible immigrants.

The 55-year-old former lobbyist also recently rolled out a plan that would prevent a candidate for public office from spending funds raised for one office on a campaign for another office, bar the personal use of campaign funds and put tighter restrictions on lobbying.

While national political attention has been focused on the new White House and a series of special congressional elections, attention will likely soon turn to the governor’s races Virginia and New Jersey, which will provide the first big tests of GOP strength in the Trump era.

The governors in both Republican-held New Jersey and Democratic-led Virginia are term-limited.

Mr. Gillespie, though a longtime political hand, is a relative newcomer to elected office himself. He nearly defeated Sen. Mark Warner in 2014, in a race where few had given him much of a chance.

During the 2016 presidential race, Mr. Gillespie appeared at a campaign stop with Mr. Trump’s then-running mate Mike Pence, but kept his distance from Mr. Trump, who lost Virginia to Hillary Clinton by 5 percentage points.

Mr. Stewart was part of Mr. Trump’s campaign operation and says the GOP primary in Virginia this year should be a repeat of the presidential race last year. Mr. Gillespie, however, has tried to steer clear of the Trump-fueled drama in Washington, including brushing aside questions about the president’s recent firing of FBI Director James B. Comey.

“I am not a commentator, I am not a senator, I am running for the governorship of Virginia,” he said.

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