Here’s a roundup of Ed Gillespie dodging from the past week alone. Despite the fact that Gillespie sided with President Trump on the Paris Climate Accord on Friday, he still refuses to participate in events with his Republican primary opponents and respond to press inquiries that “don’t fit his campaign narrative.”
Editor’s note: On Thursday, The Post conducted an email debate between Corey Stewart and Frank Wagner, two of the three major Republican candidates in Virginia’s 2017 gubernatorial election. Stewart is chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, and Wagner represents the 7th District in the Virginia state Senate. The third candidate, Ed Gillespie, declined to participate. The questions were asked by Post editorial board member Lee Hockstader. The transcript has been edited for style and clarity.
Though plans he has released are quite detailed, Gillespie can be difficult to pin down on questions that don't fit his campaign narrative. He has also avoided some forums his two opponents attended, pointing to a busy schedule.
Gillespie walks a finer line, saying, "we must enforce our existing laws." His campaign avoided a direct Daily Press attempt this week to clarify his position on who should be deported.
Asked to clarify Gillespie's position on vouchers, the campaign issued a statement that did not contain a definitive answer.
And just a reminder that 10 days ago, this story ran…
"has skipped enough potential joint appearances that it's looking like a strategy"....
"'He's ducking everything....They're just taking everything for granted.'"
"'They're like Hollywood. They have a script that they follow.'"
The last debate with all three Republican candidates for governor was April 22, more than seven weeks removed from the June 13 primary.
The reason? According to the two other campaigns and a potential debate organizer, frontrunner Ed Gillespie either isn't interested, or isn't available. Gillespie, who leads in public polling and fundraising, has skipped enough potential joint appearances that it's looking like a strategy in the waning weeks of this campaign.
"He's ducking everything," said Rob Catron, spokesman for state Sen. Frank Wagner's gubernatorial campaign. "They're just taking everything for granted."
On Monday evening, Gillespie stopped by the Tusk & Trunk event in Norfolk. He shook hands, mingled and left before the two other candidates stepped to the microphone to make campaign pitches.
An organizer said the group first asked the campaign to commit to a date for the event in February.
On Wednesday afternoon, the organizer of a Common Ground Coalition event in Norfolk was holding out hope Gillespie would attend, though the campaign never agreed to do anything beyond looking to see whether the forum would fit into his schedule.
"Impossible to know (whether they meant it)," chairman Nelson Velez said. "They're like Hollywood. They have a script that they follow."
Stewart was the only candidate to show.
When Gillespie skipped a March forum put together by the Hanover County GOP, organizers fumed. In the planning stages they'd switched the event's date after talking to a Gillespie scheduler. Candidates who'd confirmed for the first date agreed to make the change, local party chairman Russ Wright said.
Wright said the campaign's response was, "We'll get back to you."
"I was pretty angry," Wright said at the time.
The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce once hoped to schedule debates for both the Republican and Democratic gubernatorial primaries, but couldn't make the dates work, President and CEO Bryan Stephens said. On the GOP side the conversations took place in April. Wagner and Stewart provided dates they could make it, Gillespie did not, Stephens said.
"I don't think it was a definitive no," Stephens said. "It was just the challenge of calendars and logistics. ... We didn't push it."
The Democrats in this race, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and former U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello, agreed to five debates and three other joint appearances, and their last debate airs Sunday on NBC 4 in Northern Virginia.
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