By Quin Hillyer at the Washington Examiner;

Ed Gillespie, despite being a Republican running in a bad Republican year in a state trending Democratic, looks poised to win the governorship of Virginia in the Nov. 7 election. If he does, it will be because he has found the political equivalent of what athletes call a “sweet spot” – in his case, meaning a narrow realm of tough-minded decency that unites otherwise-warring Republican factions while appealing to kitchen-table concerns of independents.

For the whole-quarter century I’ve known him professionally (our stints as House leadership staffers in the 1990s coincided), Gillespie has been a solutions-oriented reformer. That’s the attitude, and skill set, he’ll bring to the job as Virginia’s chief executive.

I saw this first-hand as I watched the development of the famous Contract With America that guided the first Republican Congress in 40 years back in 1995. People who remember the Contract at all these days associate it with then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s aggressive, hard-edged persona and with some of the subsequent bitter budget battles. Those hazy memories are mistaken.

The Contract itself involved only proposals that enjoyed super-majority support from the broader public, and its key building blocks were a series of systemic reforms that curbed unethical or self-serving practices that had been rampant under Democratic congressional rule.

It was those reformist impulses – independent audits of Congress, reduction of bloated congressional staff levels by a third, term-limits for committee chairs, a requirement that committee meetings be open to the public instead of conducted in secret – that provided the main, original impetus for the Contract.

And those reforms, those corrections of long-running abuses, were in significant part the brainchild of a team led by Gillespie and his colleague Kerry Knott, both of them on the staff of then-Rep. Richard Armey, R-Texas. The basic idea for the Contract originated at an Armey staff retreat held one weekend in a Virginia mountain cabin. I witnessed it spread on Capitol Hill through diligent, patient salesmanship by Gillespie and Knott, and eventually by Gingrich’s team as well….

These are the sorts of practical, sensible policies that are Gillespie’s hallmark, and it is the approach he will take for a state government focused on improving policies affecting Virginia families. Gillespie spent significant time in the past couple of years convening nine separate policy “working groups” to craft proposals that will benefit his state. This is how he works: systematically, thoughtfully, and with long-range vision combined with practical delivery of results….

[The full column is here.]