After avoiding any endorsement in the last governor’s race in 2013, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Virginia’s paper-of-record, picked Republican Ed Gillespie Friday.
“He is a realistic conservative who understands the gradual changes in Virginia,” the 167-year-old Times-Dispatch writes of Gillespie. “[He] is able to appreciate and protect the improvements while recognizing the problems, which are frequently spurred by creeping blue-state calls for bigger and more intrusive government.”
The Gillespie endorsement is not terribly hard on his opponent, Democratic incumbent Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, despite his association with Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who the Times-Dispatch did not find fit to endorse: “[Northam] is fit for the job of governor. But he is the second-best choice to lead Virginia, not so much because of any defects on his part, but because of the abundant strengths of his opponent.”
The Times-Dispatch is best described as a moderate paper with a conservative history. It refused to endorse President Donald Trump last year after endorsing every Republican nominee since Ronald Reagan. “Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton meets the fundamental moral and professional standards we have every right to expect of an American president,” the Times-Dispatch editorial board wrote then.
Keeping with that tradition, the paper’s endorsement of Gillespie focuses on this economic agenda. “[Gillespie’s] campaign has focused on helping boost economic growth and job creation. Its centerpiece is a highly responsible and straightforward plan to cut every Virginian’s state income tax by 10 percent,” they write. “Despite hysterical claims to the contrary, Gillespie’s tax reforms will let workers keep more in their wallets, while protecting the commonwealth’s ability to meet its fundamental responsibilities, with a comfortable margin of error.”
Cultural issues like Virginia’s Confederate history and the election-defining squabble over illegal-immigration fueled transnational gangs like MS-13 are, by contrast, largely ignored. The endorsement makes only an oblique reference to “the occasional nasty campaign flier or 30-second TV spot.”
Gillespie upended the race last month when we launched a series of ads highlighting Virginia’s infiltration by thousands of members of the vicious MS-13 gang, many of them illegal aliens from El Salvador and other Central American countries. Northam refused to back a bill that would prevent Virginia cities from adopting “sanctuary” policies that could fuel these transnational gangs. Presumably, it is these ads the Times-Dispatch finds objectionable.
Some of Gillespie’s detractors have, meanwhile, tried to link him to racism, a strategy Northam’s campaign itself has seized upon with the “nasty campaign fliers” to which the Times-Dispatch referred.