Gillespie defends campaign's focus on immigration, Confederate statues

Gillespie defends campaign's focus on immigration, Confederate statues
© Greg Nash

HENRICO, Va. — Republican gubernatorial hopeful Ed Gillespie defended his campaign's tough talk on immigration and support for protecting Confederate statues during an interview just hours before the polls closed Tuesday, arguing that his campaign is highlighting the stark policy differences between the two candidates.

Speaking with The Hill on a misty Tuesday afternoon outside of a polling place at a suburban Richmond, Va., elementary school, Gillespie said his focus on policy issues will make it easier for the state to come together behind him after a divisive election. 
"My focus and ads have been about issues and policy differences," Gillespie said. 
"The lieutenant governor came forward and said we should remove all of the historical statues in the Commonwealth of Virginia, I disagree with that. And that's a difference in policy. It's a legitimate debate but it's a difference in policy."
Gillespie went on to note differences between himself and his opponent, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D), on "sanctuary cities" and the restoration of felon voting rights. And he pointed to the controversial pro-Northam ad run by the Latino Victory Fund, which depicts a Gillespie supporter driving a Confederate flag-adorned pickup truck terrorizing minority children, to tar Democratic attacks as "smears." 
"[The ad] basically portrayed my supporters and millions of Virginians across the Commonwealth of Virginia as evil," he said.  
“I don’t believe the other side is evil, I think they are wrong, we have a difference of opinion. That ad was not just an attack on my supporters, that ad was an attack on all good, decent, hardworking Virginians who want to have an honest and civil debate about the issues we face as a commonwealth.” 
Earlier Tuesday, Northam told The Hill that while he agreed with the Latino Victory Fund's decision to take down the ad, it was a "response" to Gillespie's "fear-mongering." 
On top of Gillespie's arguments about those culture-war issues, he argued that the state's economic growth has lagged under Northam and Democratic leadership. 
"We are stuck right now. Our growth rate is 0.6 percent and we are 39th of 50 states," he told a small group of reporters.  "Virginia should be the first in the country in economic growth and job creation." 
That's the flip side of Northam's argument, which highlights the drop in unemployment in the state. 
The Republican nominee and former Republican National Committee chairman stopped off at the elementary school to greet a handful of volunteers who waited in the mist to see him and encourage voters to back the GOP ticket. Among those volunteers, two of Gillespie's cousins who took the trip down from the Northeast to support him.