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Three GOP Newcomers Fight to Take on Sen. Warner

Headshots of Daniel Gade, Thomas Speciale, and Alissa Baldwin
Daniel Gade, Thomas Speciale, and Alissa Baldwin

Three Republicans are running to unseat Senator Mark Warner in Tuesday’s Republican Senate primary.

The winner will have their work cut out for them. The Cook Political Report ranks Warner’s seat as safely Democratic. And Warner has raised nearly 15 times as much money as his closest Republican opponent, Daniel Gade.

“But what you can’t buy with cash alone is passion,” Gade said in an interview.

The 25 year-army veteran said he’s successfully united statewide Republicans ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

The veteran lost a leg from combat injuries and received two Purple Hearts for his service. After a yearlong recovery process and graduate school, Gade went on to work for Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump before landing in his current role as a professor in public policy at American University in Washington D.C.

Gade contends Warner has done “virtually nothing for Virginia.” If elected to Congress, Gade said he would focus on passing legislation that would force lawmakers to put their security holdings in a trust while they’re in office, an outline that is similar to a bill proposed earlier this week by Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-07).

Gade also said he would prioritize limiting presidential war powers. That policy, too, has support from a Virginia Democrat. Sen. Tim Kaine has prioritized the issue across the Obama and Trump administrations.

“For far too long, the United States has given all of its war-making authority to the president,” Gade said.

On issues like abortion and guns, Gade sticks closely to the Republican base. He wants to alter -- but not eliminate -- President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

“Not all of it is garbage,” Gade said, pointing to protections for pre-existing conditions.

Gade said he would also like to push education reform, loosening federal restrictions to allow states and localities more leeway on spending.

Gade said the policy response to recent protests should include considering ending qualified immunity for police officers and stepping up Department of Justice enforcement on civil rights violations in “corrupt” state and local governments.

“The Republican view here is that we are not members of groups or classes,” Gade said. “Instead we ought to be standing in front of the law and in front of God as individuals who are judged on their own merits.”

In a press release Thursday, Democratic Party of Virginia spokesperson Grant Fox called Gade a “far-right extremist,” pointing to comments he made  downplaying the risks of COVID-19, questioning the “tyranny” of government-mandated masks, and his  opposition to expanded legal protections for LGBTQ people.

The two other Republicans in the race have collectively raised less than $100,000.

Thomas Speciale is a veteran and Army reservist from Woodbridge, while Alissa Baldwin is a Nottoway County civics teacher.

Speciale did not respond to requests for an interview. According to his website, he supports immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship for existing immigrants and building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He also attributes instances of gun violence to broader social issues, like poverty and drug abuse.

Speciale told Connection Newspapers that COVID-19 is “psychological terrorism” and “nothing more than a new flu.”

Baldwin, who has raised just $8,000, describes herself as a "staunch conservative" with grassroots connections to the GOP base. She said she's running for office to challenge what she calls the "go-along to get-along establishment."

“I am the ultimate political outsider,” Baldwin said in an interview. “I can win because I am a grassroots candidate of the people.”

The polls will be  open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Absentee ballots must be submitted by 7 p.m. to the local registrar’s office.

Patrick Larsen and Alan Rodriguez Espinoza contributed to this story.


Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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