State Watch

Bush, Obama to campaign in Virginia

Two former presidents are getting involved in Virginia's gubernatorial contest later this month, stumping for their respective party nominees just as voters turn their attention to the most consequential race on November's ballot.

Former President George W. Bush will hold fundraisers for Ed Gillespie, the Republican nominee, on Oct. 16 in Richmond and Alexandria.

The Alexandria event will be held at the home of Joyce and Bruce Gates. Joyce Gates is a former chief of staff to ex-House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), and Bruce Gates is a lobbyist who has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican causes.

An invitation to the event obtained by The Hill asks for contributions ranging from $150, for general admission to a reception, to $100,000, which includes a photo with Bush and two tickets to a private reception.

Former President Barack Obama will stump with Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, the Democratic nominee, later this month. Obama will hold public events with Northam, though final details are still being worked out, a spokesman for Obama's post-presidential office said.

A spokesman for Northam's campaign said they were in the process of nailing down dates for the upcoming events.

Gillespie and Bush go back decades: Gillespie served as a communications advisor during Bush's 2000 campaign for president, then as chairman of the Republican National Committee in the run-up to Bush's 2004 reelection bid. He served as the senior White House counselor during Bush's final two years in office.

Obama and Northam have less of a connection, though the former president knows Virginia politics: Obama campaigned with Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) in the final days before the 2013 election, and he picked another former Virginia governor, Sen. Tim Kaine (D), to run the Democratic National Committee during his first years in the White House.

Between them, Obama and Bush carried Virginia in all four of their bids for the presidency.

Public polls show Northam leading Gillespie by a narrow margin, and both the Northam and Gillespie campaigns believe the race is nail-bitingly close. Northam enjoys a fundraising advantage going into the final month before Election Day, but Virginia's campaign finance laws allow coordination between campaigns and their supportive outside groups, which means Gillespie has a chance to close that edge.

Bob Cusack contributed to this report

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