Kaine says he’s eager to face Ste­wart

Trump backs GOP nom­i­nee, but other Va. Repub­li­cans on bal­lot keep mostly quiet

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - FRONT PAGE - BY PA­TRICK WIL­SON

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said Wed­nes­day that he’s glad he fi­nally has a chal­lenger in Novem­ber and looks for­ward to highlighting dif­fer­ences with Repub­li­can Se­nate nom­i­nee Corey Ste­wart on pol­icy and vi­sion for Vir­ginia.

Also Wed­nes­day, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump of­fered an en­dorse­ment of Ste­wart, post­ing a state­ment on Twit­ter say­ing he has “a ma­jor chance of win­ning” in Novem­ber and calling Kaine a “to­tal stiff.”

One group was far less vo­cal about dis­cussing Ste­wart: his fel­low Vir­ginia Repub­li­cans on the Novem­ber bal­lot.

Ste­wart’s close win over state Del. Nick Fre­itas, R-Culpeper, fol­lowed a

cam­paign in which Fre­itas gen­er­ally ig­nored Ste­wart, the chair­man of the Prince Wil­liam Board of County Su­per­vi­sors, but in the fi­nal week launched an ag­gres­sive at­tack, sin­gling out Ste­wart’s past ties to white na­tion­al­ists.

The Rich­mond Times­Dis­patch posed ques­tions about Ste­wart on Wed­nes­day to the cam­paigns of U.S. Reps. Bar­bara Com­stock, R-10th; Dave Brat, R-7th; Scott Tay­lor, R-2nd; and Rob Wittman, R-1st, as well as GOP con­gres­sional can­di­dates Den­ver Rig­gle­man in the 5th District and Del. Ben Cline in the 6th, all of whom will be on the bal­lot this Novem­ber with Ste­wart at the top of the ticket.

None of them an­swered.

Ste­wart is con­tro­ver­sial and lends full-throated sup­port to Trump, and some of these can­di­dates might fear he would be a drag on their chances.

Asked about the si­lence from fel­low Repub­li­cans, Ste­wart cam­paign man­ager Matt Brown of­fered a state­ment that said: “The pres­i­dent — who sup­ports our cam­paign — has never been afraid to stand up to the left­ists or the me­dia, and the party is 100 per­cent be­hind” Ste­wart.

Fre­itas’ late at­tack high­lighted Ste­wart’s past as­so­ci­a­tion with Ja­son Kessler, the white su­prem­a­cist who, after hold­ing an event with Ste­wart last year, went on to co­or­di­nate a torch rally in Charlottesville and then the Au­gust “Unite the Right” rally that turned deadly.

Fre­itas also high­lighted Ste­wart’s praise in Jan­uary 2017 of Paul Nehlen, a far-right Wis­con­sin politi­cian who lost in a pri­mary run to House Speaker Paul Ryan in 2016 and later made anti-Semitic posts on Twit­ter.

“Corey Ste­wart has re­peat­edly made se­ri­ous lapses in judg­ment with the peo­ple he as­so­ciates with po­lit­i­cally,” Fre­itas said in an email to sup­port­ers last week. “This pat­tern of be­hav­ior is es­pe­cially dis­qual­i­fy­ing for a can­di­date seek­ing higher office.”

Ste­wart re­sponded last week that a video he posted prais­ing Nehlen came be­fore Nehlen made the anti-Semitic so­cial me­dia posts, and Ste­wart said he wants noth­ing to do with Kessler.

The neo-Nazi web­site Daily Stormer on Wed­nes­day her­alded Ste­wart’s win, al­though it pre­dicted he would lose to Kaine.

The Times-Dis­patch on Wed­nes­day asked the GOP con­gres­sional can­di­dates if they agree with Fre­itas, or with GOP Chair­man John Whit­beck’s state­ment last week that there was no firm ev­i­dence that Ste­wart sym­pa­thized with white na­tion­al­ists, and asked them if they planned to cam­paign with Ste­wart.

Scott Wel­don, aide to Tay­lor, ac­knowl­edged the in­quiry but did not re­spond to an email. Rig­gle­man’s cam­paign aide, Joseph Che­lak, did not re­spond to an email. Cline did not re­spond to a voice­mail. Com­stock’s cam­paign man­ager, Su­san Fal­coner, did not re­spond to a voice­mail. Kath­leen Gayle, Wittman’s press sec­re­tary, ac­knowl­edged the in­quiry but did not re­spond to an email.

Katey Price, cam­paign man­ager for Brat, emailed back but did not an­swer the ques­tions. Her state­ment: “We’re not fo­cused on per­son­al­i­ties or other peo­ple, we’re just run­ning our race and stick­ing to our pos­i­tive mes­sage about Con­gress­man Dave Brat, a hard­work­ing, in­de­pen­dent, com­mon sense rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the peo­ple of the 7th District who has kept his prom­ises.”

Democrats on Tues­day nom­i­nated for­mer CIA of­fi­cer Abi­gail Span­berger to chal­lenge Brat in a district that the na­tional party is hop­ing to flip.

On Wed­nes­day evening, Cline tweeted con­grat­u­la­tions to Ste­wart on his pri­mary win, adding: “Let’s all unite to­gether this fall to #Re­tireTimKaine!”

Kaine, in a con­fer­ence call with re­porters, said he doesn’t think Vir­gini­ans want Ste­wart’s “ruth­less and vi­cious” style. He sin­gled out Ste­wart’s op­po­si­tion to Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion and the fed­eral Af­ford­able Care Act.

Kaine said he’ll make the cam­paign about sharp pol­icy dif­fer­ences.

“I of­fer some­thing very dif­fer­ent — up­beat prob­lem solver. This has been the way I’ve run and the way I’ve served since I first was a Rich­mond city coun­cilper­son in 1994. Lis­ten to the prob­lems that Vir­gini­ans bring to me and try to solve them, or lis­ten to the so­lu­tions that Vir­gini­ans bring to me with their cre­ativ­ity and in­ge­nu­ity.”

Kaine said Ste­wart is “cozy­ing up to pur­vey­ors of dan­ger­ous white supremacy or anti-Semitic views, and sort of stok­ing those for his own political gain.”

When asked how he re­acted to Trump’s state­ment Wed­nes­day calling Kaine a “to­tal stiff,” Kaine said he laughed at it. He said he like­wise won’t be fazed by Ste­wart’s name-calling.

“Most of us learn to shrug that off, if we’re ma­ture, by about the sixth or maybe sev­enth grade at the lat­est,” he said. “That’s not go­ing to bother me at all. … You use a name-calling strat­egy when you’re des­per­ate.”

Kaine also said he thinks his mes­sage will res­onate with Repub­li­cans who are dis­cour­aged at what their party has be­come, as ev­i­denced by the Ste­wart nom­i­na­tion.




The Repub­li­can Se­nate nom­i­nee, Corey Ste­wart, ac­knowl­edged sup­port­ers at his vic­tory party Tues­day.

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