RICHMOND — Ed Gillespie hired a blunt-spoken veteran of Donald Trump’s campaign and sharpened his rhetoric on Confederate monuments in recent days, as the establishment Republican running for Virginia governor seeks to win over Trump voters.
Gillespie (R) has hired Jack Morgan, Trump’s Southwest Virginia field director, to play a similar role for his campaign.
An evangelical preacher, motivational speaker and self-defense entrepreneur in Southwest Virginia, Morgan worked for Gillespie’s opponent, Corey A. Stewart, in the GOP gubernatorial primary. He has warned that the country is on the brink of civil war and that communists are behind the effort to take down Confederate statues.
And when he was stumping for Stewart during the primary, Morgan blasted Gillespie as a Washington lobbyist in speeches.
“I’m telling you folks, it would be a shame — that I put [in] all the time I did, and all of you folks put in all the time you did, and we all across America worked as hard as we could to send Donald Trump to Washington, D.C., to drain the swamp, and send a lobbyist to Richmond,” Morgan told the Southwest Virginia Republican Women’s Club in April. “That would be a disaster.”
Morgan, an associate pastor at Real Life Ministries in Wytheville, Va., did not respond to messages seeking comment. The Gillespie campaign declined to make him available for an interview.
Conservative radio host John Fredericks, who helped lead Trump’s Virginia campaign, touted the hire as a win for the party’s Trump faction.
Fredericks was one of several prominent Republicans, from the White House on down, who urged Gillespie to hire Trump campaign veterans after he nearly lost the primary to Stewart.
“Our hope is that some of the Jack Morgan style rubs off on Ed,” Fredericks said Tuesday. “Ed needs to surround himself with Jack Morgans. ”
Fredericks did not think Morgan’s past criticism of Gillespie will hamper his ability to sell him now.
“I think Jack, in looking at this race, has come to the sober conclusion that Ed Gillespie’s positions and polices are much closer to President Trump’s . . . than Ralph Northam’s are,” Fredericks said, referring to the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, the state’s lieutenant governor. “There’s now a binary decision that has to be made.”
David Abrams, a campaign spokesman, said Morgan is working on “grassroots outreach and coalition coordination, and we are thrilled to have him on the team.”
The move delighted Republicans who think Gillespie, a former lobbyist and aide to President George W. Bush as well as chairman of the Republican National Committee, needs to make a stronger pitch to rural voters to beat Northam (D) in November.
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