By Joe Beck
STRASBURG -- Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ed Gillespie said Thursday a five-point plan at the center of his campaign offers more hope for spurring the state's economy than what he described as failed policies supported by his opponent, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, and President Barack Obama.
In remarks during a 15-minute interview, Gillespie spoke largely about economic issues, which are also the focus of his campaign website and public appearances.
"There's a lot of economic anxiety as I travel the commonwealth, and in some parts of the commonwealth there's real economic pain, the southwest and south side in particular Gillespie said. "People are concerned about the squeeze they're feeling as a result of lost jobs and lower take-home pay and reduced hourly wages and higher prices for health insurance, energy, a gallon of gas and food prices."
Gillespie said his economic plan would "create jobs, increase take-home pay, help lift people out of poverty, hold down health care costs and reduce energy prices, and I find an enthusiastic response to it around Virginia."
Gillespie's economic plan calls for replacing the Affordable Care Act with what he described as a free-market-based plan that he argues would provide better access to the health care system. More than eight million people have signed up for the Affordable Care Act, but Gillespie said he has heard from many state residents who say they are paying much more for health insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
Gillespie criticized Warner, a Democrat, for opposing construction of the Keystone pipeline, a project designed to carry oil from Canada to refineries in the United States as far south as the Gulf Coast. Gillespie said he favors a policy that supports alternative energy sources and more production of traditional forms of energy such as oil, coal, and natural gas.
Gillespie said proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulations would eliminate jobs in Virginia and raise energy prices.
"I believe there's ample evidence in support of climate change, but I also believe that what this administration is doing and what Mark Warner supports in terms of the war on coal . . . if we close between a third to 50 percent of our coal-fired plants in Virginia, which I'm told would be the impact of these new rules, that demand will be met elsewhere," Gillespie said.
Gillespie added that "countries like China, India and Indonesia, they don't have the same stringent air quality standards that we have. I believe that pushing production overseas to places with less stringent air quality standards than we have is not going to have the impact and even marginal effect that proponents of these proposed regulations say it will."
Gillespie defended a closed meeting he planned to attend later in the day with a local tea party organization. The website for the Northern Shenandoah Valley Tea Party stated the closed meeting was necessary "to have a serious discussion without this being twisted by the press."
Gillespie said it's normal for political candidates to meet privately with their grassroots supporters.
"Much as I love the press, I don't necessarily want Mark Warner's campaign to know what our priorities are and what our campaign strategy is," Gillespie said.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org