Ed Gillespie Is Wooing Trump Voters in Virginia—But Raising Money From Never Trumpers

He’s attending a fundraiser this week at the home of a vocal anti-Trump activist.

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Ed Gillespie, the Republican nominee in the hotly contested Virginia governor’s race, is trying mightily to appeal to supporters of President Donald Trump with fear-mongering ads about the dangers of undocumented immigrants and the threat posed by the MS-13 gang. But this week, Gillespie will take a break from wooing Republican base voters to raise campaign cash at the home of a vocal anti-Trump activist who sought to block Trump from receiving the GOP nomination at last year’s party convention and her husband, a Koch brothers operative. 

According to an invitation described to Mother Jones by someone who received it, the hosts of the Gillespie fundraiser are longtime Virginia political activists Anne and Kevin Gentry. Anne was an at-large delegate to the 2016 GOP national convention where she and several other Virginia Republicans fought to keep Trump off the ticket. She attended the convention in support of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Kevin, her husband, is a senior executive in the political and philanthropic network funded and organized by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. (During the 2016 election, the Koch brothers withheld their support from Trump and largely sat out the campaign.)

Vice President Mike Pence, a supporter of the Kochs, is scheduled to headline the event, according to the invitation.

Reached by phone, Anne Gentry said, “This isn’t a good time,” and hung up. A spokesman for Gillespie declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Pence did not respond to a request for comment.

Raising money at the home of a prominent Trump critic could cause headaches for Gillespie. He has walked a tightrope when it comes to Trump: keeping a distance from the president in the more Democratic-leaning suburbs of northern Virginia, but at the same time appealing to voters in Virginia’s rural and semi-rural counties that Trump dominated last year with a distinctly Trumpian anti-immigration message. Despite Trump’s endorsement-by-tweet of Gillespie, the president has yet to appear in person on behalf of the Republican gubernatorial candidate, and it is unclear if Trump will stump for Gillespie before election day.

Gillespie, a longtime Republican operative, is far from an obvious choice for Trump voters in Virginia. He is the epitome of a Beltway insider: a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a high-priced lobbyist or consultant for Enron, Bank of America, AT&T, and other multinational corporations. He is a creature of the so-called swamp that Trump vowed to drain.

Yet Gillespie’s path to victory in Virginia’s governor requires a strong turnout in Virginia’s Trump country. At the same time, he must prevent his Democratic opponent, Lt. Governor Ralph Northam, from running up a huge margin in populous northern Virginia.

Gillespie has trailed Northam in the polls consistently throughout the race. A fundraiser at the home of two well-connected, northern Virginia Republican activists will replenish his campaign war chest in the race’s final days. He clearly is calculating that this cash infusion outweighs any possible harm of throwing a fundraiser at the home of a vociferous Trump critic.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate