Meet the candidates: Republican Ed Gillespie

All this week, we’re getting personal with Virginia’s candidates for governor. The June primary is less than a month away. We begin our “Meet the Candidates” series with Republican Ed Gillespie.

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — He’s considered the front-runner among the GOP, and Ed Gillespie wants to be your next governor.

“It would mean an opportunity to serve my fellow Virginians,” he said.

The son of an Irish immigrant, he spent his childhood working in his parents’ market.

“In my family, when you turned 12-years-old you got a birthday cake and a present and a four-hour shift at the CJ Market.”

He went on to start three small businesses of his own.

After high school, it was college at The Catholic University of America in D.C. That’s where he worked as a Senate parking lot attendant. He eventually worked his way up to be counselor to President George W. Bush.

“From immigrant janitor to West Wing of the White House in two generations’ time. I want to make sure that other families and future generations have those same blessings of liberty,” said Gillespie.

Today, Gillespie has the support of House Speaker William Howell and Speaker Designee Kirk Cox. He’s also been leading the primary polls among Republicans.

The latest Quinnipiac University poll released April 11 puts him well above the two other Republicans in the race. Gillespie had 28 percent, Corey Stewart 12 percent and Frank Wagner seven percent. Fifty-one percent of Republicans polled were undecided.

Gillespie says it’s his detailed plans and specific proposals that set him apart.

“I’m the only one I see on either side of the aisle putting forward specific policies and letting the people of Virginia look at them and say, ‘You know, I agree with this or I don’t,'” he said. “But they’re out there and they’re specific and there’s more to come.”

A big part of his plan includes cutting individual income tax rates by 10 percent across the board.

“Those rates were set in 1972. They’ve never come down in 45 years, but other states around us have been moving,” said Gillespie.

Gillespie says he’s concerned about economic development in the Commonwealth.

“We had a 10-year low in labor force participation rate last year and I just know we can do better. We’re in the bottom 10 states in economic growth on a quarterly basis right now, and we should be first in the nation when it comes to economic growth and job creation.”

To do so, he says we need to reorient our thinking.

“For a long time we’ve been whale hunters. That’s true of governors in both parties. We’ve put a focus on trying to get a Fortune 100 company to move lock, stock and barrel into Virginia, and I’m all for that, but we have to start growing our own whales,” said Gillespie.

He’s also put forth a detailed ethics plan focused on fairness, accountability, integrity, transparency and honesty in government.

“If I’m governor, I’m taking no gifts at all. And neither will my immediate family or any of my appointees,” he said.

Gillespie says another key issue is improving public schools.

“That’ll mean more choices for parents and greater parental control over our children’s education,” he said.

Modernizing transportation and regulatory relief are two more issues he’s focused on.

As Virginians head to the polls, this is what Gillespie wants people to think when they see his name: “He’s going to fight for me.”

The primary is June 13. The last day to register to vote for the primary is May 22.

BORN: Mount Holly, New Jersey

LIVES: Fairfax County, Virginia

COLLEGE: The Catholic University of America

FAMILY: Wife Cathy, three children

MENTORS: George W. Bush, parents, wife

CAMPAIGN SLOGAN: “Ed Gillespie for governor for ALL Virginians”