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U.S. Sen. Mark Warner says Ed Gillespie, his Republican challenger, would widen partisan chasms in Washington if he wins this November’s election.
Warner, a Democrat who prides himself as a "radical centrist," repeatedly noted during a July 26 debate that Gillespie was chairman of the Republican National Committee -- a post he held from 2003 -2005.
"He views every issue through the lens of Republicans versus Democrats," Warner said. "He even went on TV and called himself a ‘partisan warrior.’ His words -- not mine."
Later in the debate, Warner said, "If you want another partisan warrior in Washington, he’s your guy," he said.
Gillespie replied that Warner hadn’t gotten his comment exactly right.
"I believe the phrase I used, Senator, was ‘happy partisan warrior,’ which is what you do when you’re a chairman of the Republican National Committee or a chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia. "
"Our current governor (Terry McAuliffe) is a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee," he added. "Your colleague in the Senate (Tim Kaine) is a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. You are former a chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia. That’s your job. That’s your role. That’s the role you play when you’re in those jobs. The role of a senator is different and I understand that."
Given the disputed interpretations, we decided to publish Gillespie’s original "partisan warrior" comments in full.
Gillespie made the statement during an interview on ABC Politics Live on Sept. 22, 2006. He was promoting his new memoir, "Winning right: Campaign politics and conservative policies."
Gillespie, at the time, was working for Quinn Gillespie Associates, a lobbying and public relations firm he founded six years earlier with Jack Quinn, an influential Democratic adviser.
Mark Halperin, co-host of the ABC show, questioned how Gillespie could be a tough Republican partisan in elections and yet work with a partner who was lobbying Democratic causes.
Let’s cut to the transcript:
Halperin: "Now, let me ask you a serious question. You have been side by side working for your party. You used to be a Democrat, but now you’re working in the partisan trenches, and you have over the years. How do you explain within partisan Washington, partisan politics, that your partner in your consulting firm is not only a Democrat but a guy who worked for Al Gore and Bill Clinton?"
Gillespie: "Well, you know, one of the things in my book is that I think that people who sling on the armor deserve respect across the aisle. I think people who are in campaigns and elections, whether Democrat or Republican, are in it for the good of the country. They may be wrong, but that’s the case.
"Now, my consulting firm does lobbying and public relations and advertising. And when you’re doing that for clients, for corporate clients of trade associations and others, you need to take into account both points of view. When I’m in a campaign, it’s not a bipartisan manner. I’m happy to be a partisan warrior."
So the takeaway is that Gillespie views himself in two different lights: A "partisan warrior" when it comes to campaigns and a negotiator when it comes to business or serving in elective office.
Virginia Bar Association’s Senate debate, July 26, 2014. (Warners "partisan warrior" comments occur around 4 minutes into video. Gillespie’s response on that comment is over 37 minutes into debate).
Virginia Democratic Party, "Meet Ed Gillespie," June 7, 2014.
ABC News Now/Politics Live transcript via Lexis Nexis, Sept. 22, 2006.