A candidate given little chance to win in a left-leaning state is focusing his message on fighting illegal immigration and political correctness, while bashing the Democratic incumbent and his “establishment” Republican rival.
Corey Stewart points out he has been beating the drum on these issues for years and insists he is not modeling his campaign for Virginia governor on the unorthodox approach taken by Donald Trump.
Nonetheless, Stewart, a four-term chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, is railing against the record of term-limited Gov. Terry McAuliffe, accusing clear GOP front-runner Ed Gillespie of refusing to take stands on difficult issues, vowing to clamp down on illegal immigration and stiff-arming political correctness to the point of holding a photo opportunity with the Confederate flag.
Polling has been scant ahead of the June 13 primary, which also includes Virginia state Sen. Frank Wagner. However, a Christopher Newport University survey from late March shows Gillespie with a commanding lead. The former Republican National Committee chairman and 2014 U.S. Senate candidate sports 38 percent in the poll. Stewart is next at 11 percent, and Wagner had 10 percent.
For his part, Stewart told WND and Radio America Republican voters had better take a closer look at the Virginia race if they want to win in November.
“I’m the only Republican who’s been able to win up here in Northern Virginia county-wide. My district is 454,000 people. It’s a 60-40 Democratic district. I’ve been able to win it four times, the only Republican who’s been able to do that,” Stewart said.
“I know how to win; I’ve done so as a conservative. I led the nation’s toughest crackdown on illegal immigration. I’ve been able to cut spending deeply in my county, reduce taxes, the lowest tax jurisdiction in Northern Virginia,” said Stewart, who clarified that the county does not have the lowest property tax rates in Northern Virginia but the lowest average property tax bills.
Part of that is due to property values being far lower there than in neighboring Fairfax or Loudoun Counties. Adjusted for inflation, however, property tax bills in Prince William County are slightly lower than when Stewart first became chairman.
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Corey Stewart:
Stewart hammers Gov. McAuliffe for Virginia’s loss of 10,000 manufacturing jobs per year over the past four years, losing the battle for companies and jobs to neighboring North Carolina, and refusing to crack down on fraudulent voting.
However, he said Gillespie, to whom Stewart refers as “Establishment Ed,” would not be a whole lot better.
“Ed Gillespie has refused to take any hard-line positions on anything,” Stewart charged. “If you ask him to take a position on illegal immigration, he’ll say he’s against it. But if you look at his record, he said when he was running for the Senate in 2014 – on ‘The Larry Kudlow Show’ – that he was for amnesty for 12 million illegal aliens, including gang members.”
What is clear is that Gillespie was on the record in support of the Gang of Eight immigration reform bill the Senate approved in 2013.
Stewart said it’s not just about immigration.
“He is a liberal. He is for amnesty on illegal immigration,” he said. “On the life issue, he says he’s pro-life, but then he would not sign legislation that would prohibit partial-birth or late-term abortions. Even his tax-cut policy – he says he’s going to cut taxes – but he doesn’t cut a single nickel in spending.”
Stewart continued: “On the state and local level, you cannot cut taxes unless you’re able to cut spending. He won’t do it because he knows it’s controversial. He refuses to take a hard-line position.”
Stewart said his work to balance the budget after the 2008 financial crisis proves he can trim government spending.
“We cut $185 million out of our base budget in Prince William in a single year, and that’s what I want to do in Virginia. We’ve got a state budget that’s out of control. State taxes are far too high, and we’re losing a lot of jobs to North Carolina because of it,” he said.
“What I’d like to do is reduce the top marginal income tax rate from 5.75 percent to 4.75 percent. That’s the No. 1 thing we can do in Virginia to improve the business climate.”
However, most media coverage of Stewart in the campaign has not been about his economic plans or even his efforts to crack down on illegal immigration. Instead, it’s been his very vocal denunciations of efforts to remove Confederate monuments or statues.
The hottest flash-point came in February, when the Charlottesville City Council voted to remove a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee from a local park. A judge recently issued an injunction against the removal, but Stewart said something much bigger than a single statue is at stake – the scourge of political correctness.
“I believe political correctness is a bondage from which we must break free. It’s limiting our First Amendment freedoms in this country,” said Stewart, who believes the left is whitewashing history.
“They’re starting by labeling all these statues that we have in Virginia, to Robert E. Lee and others, as white supremacist statues,” he said. “Now it’s false, but they’re tearing [them] down. The city of Charlottesville voted to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee that’s been there since 1924. And it’s spreading. They said next time they’re coming after Thomas Jefferson.”
But Stewart goes beyond the push to preserve Confederate history to at least the brink of embracing it. In March, he held an event where he prominently displayed the Confederate flag and vowed to defend it.
“Folks, this is a symbol of heritage. It is not a symbol of racism. It is not a symbol of slavery,” Stewart was quoted as saying in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
So where does he stand?
“I know that some people are offended by the Confederate flag, but it is part of our history. It is part of our past. Although there are many people offended by the flag, they have to understand there are millions of other people across this country who have ancestors who fought honorably for the Confederacy,” Stewart said.
“They’re simply trying to honor their ancestors. They’re trying to honor their heritage. They’re not trying to offend. We need to stand up for everybody. Everybody should be able to honor their heritage.”
The Gillespie campaign called the photo opportunity with the Confederate flag “desperate” and labeled the flag itself as “divisive.”
Stewart realizes his approach on this and other issues can be abrasive, but he said his style is appreciated by his constituents.
“I’ve always been very blunt, some would say brash; but I’m very, very blunt, and I’ve won on that,” Stewart said. “The reason is because people are so sick and tired of political correctness. They’re sick of the swamp, and we’ve got a swamp here in Virginia, just like there is one in Washington, D.C.”