Last week, Virginia Republicans nominated Corey Stewart for U.S. Senate to take on incumbent Democrat Tim Kaine in the fall.
Stewart narrowly edged out state Delegate Nick Freitas, an Army veteran, with 45 percent to Freitas’ 43 percent — a margin of 5,000 votes. Bishop E.W. Jackson, the 2013 Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, placed third with 12 percent.
Stewart, the Chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors in the outer suburbs of Washington, D.C., has been running for statewide office virtually nonstop since 2013. He finished third of seven candidates at a convention in 2013, and lost the gubernatorial nomination in 2017 by one point to Ed Gillespie in a surprisingly tight race. Freitas, new to the statewide scene in Virginia, waged a strong campaign but came up short.
Stewart has long been a fierce critic of illegal immigration, leading a successful crackdown in Prince William County in the late 2000s. He attached himself to Donald Trump in the 2016 campaign, becoming the Trump campaign chairman in Virginia. He was fired from that position after staging a protest at RNC headquarters in response to reports the RNC was considering withdrawing support from Trump in the wake of the Access Hollywood tapes.
In the 2017 campaign for governor, Stewart intentionally used inflammatory rhetoric and tactics to gain attention. Stewart, who is originally from Minnesota, based most of his campaign for governor on the Confederate statue controversy, crusading in favor of keeping statues up and celebrating the Confederate flag. Stewart made questionable comments after the Charlottesville white supremacist rally and domestic terrorist attack, and he has connections to various white supremacist leaders.
He has been profiled numerous times by the leftist Washington Post, which frequently publishes his comments critical of other Republicans. Stewart openly admitted to the Post that he intentionally ratchets up his rhetoric to win media attention. Despite all his rhetoric, however, Stewart did support the building of a mosque in Prince William County in 2017, using parliamentary tactics that some said were illegal.
Unsurprisingly given his rhetoric and ties to white supremacist movements, a handful of Republican and conservative groups have said they will not offer support to Stewart’s campaign this year. Americans for Prosperity and the National Republican Senatorial Committee said they would not support or endorse Stewart, and RNC Chairman Ronna McDaniel declined to commit to supporting Stewart.
The evidence is increasing that Virginia is becoming a northeastern light blue state, like New Jersey, which will occasionally swing Republican but mostly go for Democrats. The constant expansion of the left-wing northern Virginia suburbs have prevented Republicans from winning statewide since 2009.
It is likely that as Stewart seeks to ratchet up the rhetoric with inflammatory statements, other Republican candidates across the country will be asked about him. He will become a distraction to other candidates — and that’s a problem for GOP hopes to gain seats in the U.S. Senate and hold the House in 2018.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore