Ed Gillespie’s close loss for the U.S. Senate might give him a second act in Virginia politics, but it apparently won’t involve a run for governor.
Gillespie, who fell to Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., by fewer than 17,000 votes, told Politico that he is not interested in seeking the Executive Mansion.
“A lot of good people are thinking about running for governor in 2017,” Gillespie said. “I’m not one of them.”
A spokesman for Gillespie’s Senate campaign confirmed the quote, but said Gillespie is spending time with family after the campaign and was unavailable for an interview.
Gillespie did not say whether he is interested in another run for the U.S. Senate in 2018, when Democrat Timothy M. Kaine would be up for re-election.
If it remains the case that Gillespie is ruling out a run for governor, “It leaves a fairly wide open Republican field” for the GOP nomination, said Bob Holsworth, a consultant who was a longtime political analyst at Virginia Commonwealth University.
“You’re likely to have multiple contenders,” Holsworth said.
Sen. Mark D. Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, “obviously wants to pursue it, but I would expect other people to get in the race as well,” Holsworth said.
Obenshain took Democrat Mark Herring to a recount in the 2013 contest for attorney general.
Holsworth said other Republicans who might consider a run for governor in 2017 include former two-term Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling; Pete Snyder, an entrepreneur and marketing executive who sought the nomination for lieutenant governor in 2013; and state Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach.
Obenshain is a strong contender, but “I don’t think he gets a free pass to the nomination (just) because he was the closest in the statewide races,” Holsworth said.
Obenshain was an enthusiastic supporter of Gillespie’s Senate bid. He endorsed him in January and made a number of campaign appearances at Gillespie’s side.
After Gillespie conceded Friday, Obenshain issued a statement in which he congratulated the Senate nominee “on running an energetic, positive campaign that was focused on the issues.”
Strategists in both parties had said privately for months that they suspected Gillespie’s race against Warner was a first run around the track that could lead to second statewide campaign, perhaps for governor.
In 1996, Warner took on Sen. John W. Warner, R-Va., and came within about 5 percentage points, setting up Mark Warner’s successful run for governor in 2001.
In 2009, Democrat Terry McAuliffe made a first, unsuccessful run for governor, losing the nomination to state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County. McAuliffe won his second bid for the Executive Mansion in 2013.