Senate hopefuls stump at Hob Nob

By Joe Beck

MIDDLETOWN — Barbecue dinners, political speeches and a straw poll formed the main attractions for slightly more than 400 people who attended the 15th annual Hob Nob in the Valley Friday at Lord Fairfax Community College.

Candidates for the U.S. Senate — Republican Ed Gillespie, incumbent Democrat Mark Warner and Libertarian Robert Sarvis — argued their cases in four-minute speeches that left little time for anything beyond simple biographies and summaries of campaign issues.

Gillespie hearkened back to his family’s background as Irish immigrants and his rise from an attendant in the U.S. Senate parking lot to an advisor to former President George W. Bush.

“What a country,” Gillespie exulted. “But I fear we’re losing that kind of economic development and upward mobility.”

Gillespie’s remedies for sluggish economic growth and feeble rates of job creation included repeal of the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with “market-oriented reforms that work.”

He also called for tax and regulatory changes, education overhaul and cutting waste in government.

Warner cited what he described as a record of bipartisanship throughout his political career. As governor, Warner said, he worked with a Republican-controlled General Assembly to turn a budget deficit of $6 billion into a $1 billion surplus.

“That’s been my record as governor,” Warner said. “That’s been my record as senator.”

Warner praised Lord Fairfax and other community colleges for the role they play in the state’s education system, but said he worries about the costs of education hobbling students for years to come.

“Right now with $1.2 trillion in debt, we’re going to crush a generation of young people who aren’t going to get the same fair shot that Ed and I got,” Warner said.

Warner said he would use a second term in the Senate to fix, not replace, the Affordable Care Act, try to find ways to obtain private funding to help pay for infrastructure projects and focus on taming the national debt through tax reform and cuts in spending to entitlement programs.

Sarvis said he was under no illusions about his prospects of defeating Warner and Gillespie.

“I know the odds are stacked against me, but there’s a lot we can accomplish in this race,” Sarvis said.

A strong showing by him would make for more competitive future elections between Libertarians, Democrats and Republicans, Sarvis said.

Sarvis called for deregulation of the entire health care system and criticized bipartisan cooperation in Congress that led to the creation of a “a national surveillance state,” the federal war on drugs and a crisis in immigration.

The straw poll result at the end of the night showed Gillespie winning with 203 votes or 72.5 percent, followed by Warner with 23.93 percent and Sarvis with 3.57 percent.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or