Gillespie edges out Trump-aligned candidate in Virginia gov primary

Gillespie edges out Trump-aligned candidate in Virginia gov primary
© Getty

Ed Gillespie has narrowly edged out Corey Stewart to clinch the Republican nomination for Virginia governor, according to The Washington Post, a photo finish to a race predicted to end in a wide victory for Gillespie. 

Gillespie's win marks a slim victory for the establishment wing of the GOP. Stewart had aligned himself strongly with President Trump, hoping to ride the populist wave that sent Trump to the White House in November.

Gillespie ultimately took 43 percent of the vote, while Stewart came in a close second with 42 percent. Trailing far back in third was Frank Wagner, a Navy veteran and Virginia state senator without the national backing of Gillespie or the populist fervor of Stewart.

ADVERTISEMENT

Gillespie, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, was expected to win the GOP primary by a wide margin — the result of Trump's growing disapproval and a signal that insurgent candidates could be losing political ground.

Also driving the prediction of Gillespie's win was Stewart's embrace of Confederate symbols, which cost him the support of some longtime GOP allies and colleagues.

The Trump-aligned candidate garnered attention in April when he got into an argument on Twitter with musician John Legend, among others, over the removal of Confederate monuments in New Orleans.

Trump ultimately lost Virginia in the November presidential election, coming in with roughly 200,000 votes fewer than his Democratic opponent, Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonSally Yates: Justice system 'may be broken beyond recognition' under Trump Trump event taking place on Crooked Hill Road Trump job approval swings lower MORE. Likewise, former President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaBiden thanks GOP healthcare bill opponents after skinny ObamaCare repeal failure FDA gives cigar, e-cig makers more time to get products approved GOP lawmaker: Time for us to listen to Democrats on healthcare MORE won twice in the state.

Gillespie's victory on Tuesday means that he will face off against Democrat Ralph Northam, the state's lieutenant governor, in November. Like Gillespie, Northam is closely aligned with the establishment wing of his party. He beat out former Rep. Tom Perriello, a progressive backed by Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFive takeaways from ObamaCare repeal’s collapse Live Coverage: Senate votes down 'skinny' ObamaCare repeal Sanders: Senate healthcare fight 'totally bananas' MORE (I-Vt.).

Gillespie is well-seasoned in Virginia politics. In a 2014 bid for the U.S. Senate, he narrowly missed a victory over incumbent Sen. Mark WarnerMark WarnerBoth sides of the aisle agree — telemedicine is the future Google announces million initiative for displaced workers Overnight Tech: House GOP wants to hear from tech CEOs on net neutrality | SEC eyes cryptocurrency | Elon Musk, Zuckerberg trade jabs over AI | Trump says Apple opening three plants in US MORE (D), a former Virginia governor, who has served in the Senate since 2009.

Stewart, on the other hand, built his political career at the local level and currently serves as the chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors in Northern Virginia.