When Ed Gillespie announced his InformEd tour of the state, I wasn’t exactly lining up to hear the Republican candidate for Governor talk about his supposedly great ideas for the Commonwealth. But I had to give it a shot, because I was dying to ask him just one question.
I’m the first person in my family to go to college. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2001 and had an average amount of student loan debt, which for that time was $20,000. I worked for ten years until my loans were paid off. Later in 2011, I started graduate school and in 2013, I obtained my master’s degree with a brand new chunk of student loan debt.
Working and paying off this debt has been overwhelming because of the high interest rate on my student loans (6.8 percent). I haven’t been able to buy a house because of this debt. I certainly wouldn’t be able to handle monthly car payments along with my student loan payment. Sometimes, I can’t afford groceries because of this stupid debt. I’M ALSO EMPLOYED FULL-TIME.
So, I wanted to know about Gillespie’s history as a lobbyist for a firm that fought against legislation that would have helped student loan borrowers like me.
Dear Ed: Please “Inform” Me About Your History As a Lobbyist for Predatory Lenders
I wanted to know if Gillespie had any regrets about his time working for predatory student loan companies while he ran a DC lobbying firm, Quinn Gillespie & Associates. His firm lobbied Congress to defeat a bill designed to bring down the cost of college by offering grants to low-income students and lower interest rates on student loans. Since 44 million people in the U.S. have a collective debt of $1.4 trillion in student loans, I wondered if he felt bad about what he had done.
So I set about getting tickets to attend his Inform ED tour in Richmond on Sept. 28 so that I could ask him that one question.
“InformED” Was A Carefully Staged Campaign Event
Gillespie announced his InformED tour so he could “listen to his fellow Virginians about their concerns to help him make informed decisions as our next governor.” Supposedly, Gillespie wanted to have an open discussion. However, his campaign set up a lottery for admission, perhaps so they could screen the attendees before letting them in?
I entered the lottery, crossed my fingers, and the universe rewarded me. (Apparently, the Gillespie campaign didn’t google my name)
Gillespie’s Campaign Continues to Focus on Appearance Over Truth
The event at Trinity Family Life Center seemed rather staged. At the very least, I knew I stuck out like a sore thumb.
As soon as Gillespie concluded his introductory campaign spiel, I raised my hand, eager to put my question out there. Instead of me, he called on another woman, who immediately called him out for the NRA backing him and asked him about his phony tax plan.
Gillespie dodged the question about the NRA, but happily talked about his tax cut. Gillespie says the tax cut will put “$1,300 back into the pockets of a family of four.” What his campaign neglects to clarify is that this “family of four” will need to make $135,000 a year in order to benefit from the tax cut.
Most families in Virginia don’t make that much money. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Virginia’s median household income for 2015 was $65,015. That means that half of Virginia’s households make less than $65,015 and the other half of the state’s households earn more than that.
Gillespie’s use of the mean income of $135,000 makes his tax cut look a whole lot better than if he were to use the median income numbers. The entire evening displayed Gillespie’s desire to focus on optics instead of actually getting InformED.
Most families in Virginia don’t make that much money—with a median household income of $65,015. Gillespie’s use of a mean income of $135,000 makes his tax cut look a whole lot better than if he were to use the median income numbers.
I may never know how he feels because for the next twenty minutes, Ed artfully ignored me – and skillfully dodged question after question.
For the rest of the event, Ed continued to dodge questions that he didn’t like.
When asked about the poor quality of Richmond schools, he responded, “I’m so concerned about Richmond’s public schools.” Tellingly however, he omitted the fact that he wants to privatize our public schools, thus further undermining our struggling public education system.
“The recent in violence in Richmond worries me as well,” he said while answering about the spike in the number of murders in Richmond. If he was really worried about violence in Richmond, then he would go after the NRA and work to get guns off the streets. But Ed is all about the Second Amendment.
Once the last question was announced, I knew Gillespie wouldn’t call on me. As I left the room feeling rejected, the first woman to ask a question caught up with me. “I had you pegged from the beginning,” she laughed. “It was your bag. Too many colors.”