Gillespie Unveils Lawmaker-Led Policy Team

Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Ed Gillespie kills three birds with one stone, per the Washington Post:

Co-chaired by two General Assembly heavyweights, Gillespie’s “policy leadership team” also signals broad support among GOP legislators for Gillespie, a Republican strategist and former White House counselor who faces two rivals for his party’s nomination: Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) and Corey A. Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors.

Gillespie, who narrowly lost a race to unseat Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) in 2014, has set up nine work groups to help him develop policies on the economy, education and other issues. They will be led by many of the 53 state delegates and senators who have endorsed him.

Which three, you ask?

First, these will be viewed as a near endorsement of the existing elected official support base in Richmond, as duplicating this list will be a difficult thing for any prospective candidate to accomplish.

Second, it’s a reminder to others that the relationship between this candidate and Richmond will be strong, much unlike the relationship McAuliffe has had with the Virginia General Assembly.

Lastly, it’s a shot across the bow in terms of logistical organization, one more reminder that Gillespie has a warchest, has the open support of existing elected officials, and is building (and co-opting) the connections required to run a statewide race.

Of course, these are familiar sluices for the Gillespie campaign, having stitched these together for the 2014 U.S. Senate bid.

My one minor quibble?  They’re all elected officials.

Naturally, I can see the conversation in my head.  The Gillespie staffer nods, grabs a sheet of paper, and says “OK, give me the list of Virginia policy wonks we should have included,” and clicks the pen.

Mike Thompson?
James Bacon?
Chris Braunlich?

It dawns on me that we really don’t have an exceptionally deep policy wonk bench in Virginia (I’m naturally missing plenty of names who are doing fantastic work — Chris Freund comes to mind — but working at the Virginia Family Foundation precludes him from working with a candidate).

Sure there are schools working towards that end: UVA Batten, CNU Wason, VCU Wilder, GMU Mercatus — but they are still by and large coming on line.

Nor do we really have anything on par with say, the Texas Public Policy Foundation for conservatives.  In fact, if you look around, a lot of our Richmond-centric think tanks and institutions really don’t exist — at least, not on the scale and not with the energy of other conservative state policy networks.

Of course, Gillespie is one step ahead of the game, helpfully offering a link for those so inclined to work with Team Gillespie’s elected officials in any area one might desire.  Checkmate, indeed.

So here’s the general point: The inevitable criticism of an “establishment” heavy policy team would be terribly misguided, or in all fairness, extremely myopic.  More accurately, Gillespie is orchestrating an olive branch between grassroots and elected officials that works with the tools at hand…

…and, if one might wonder aloud, the building blocks to a permanent policy shop in Virginia?

Yes I’m done opining.  Carry on, fellas — and good play, Team Gillespie.

* * *

“Let’s Grow, Virginia!” Policy Leadership Team

Committee Co-Chairs
House Majority Leader Kirk Cox and Senator Mark Obenshain

Steering Committee Members
Delegate Kathy Byron
Delegate Terry Kilgore
Delegate Ron Villanueva
Senator Ryan McDougle
Senator David Suetterlein

Working Group Chairs

Agriculture, Natural Resources & Energy
Delegate Michael Webert, Delegate Will Morefield and Senator Ben Chafin

Education & Workforce Development
Delegate Tag Greason, Delegate Dave LaRock and Senator Steve Newman

Government Reform & Efficiency
Delegate Steve Landes and Senator Glen Sturtevant

Health & Human Resources
Delegate John O’Bannon, M.D. and Senator Siobhan Dunnavant, M.D.

Jobs & Economic Growth
Delegate Danny Marshall and Senator Frank Ruff

Mental Health, Addiction & Recovery
Delegate Joseph Yost and Delegate Roxann Robinson

Public Safety
Delegate Todd Gilbert and Senator Ryan McDougle

Delegate Tim Hugo and Senator Bill Carrico

Veterans & Military Affairs
Delegate Scott Lingamfelter and Senator John Cosgrove

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