Trump looms large over elec­tions; Ste­wart will take on Kaine for GOP

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

Prince Wil­liam County Board of Su­per­vi­sors Chair­man Corey Ste­wart rode a pro-Trump mes­sage to a nar­row win in the Repub­li­can U.S. Se­nate pri­mary in Vir­ginia on Tues­day and earn a fall show­down with Demo­cratic in­cum­bent Sen. Tim Kaine.

In other closely watched pri­maries in Vir­ginia and sev­eral other states, proand anti-Trump forces also bat­tled it out for po­si­tion­ing ahead of the gen­eral elec­tion cam­paign sea­son for the Novem­ber midterms.

But at least in Vir­ginia, Mr. Ste­wart was the can­di­date who ar­guably most epit­o­mized the pro-Trump wing of the Repub­li­can Party.

Mr. Ste­wart has promised to run a “vi­cious” cam­paign against Demo­cratic Sen. Tim Kaine, and at­tracted head­lines with Trump-like an­tics, such as wav­ing toi­let paper in a press con­fer­ence out­side the Vir­ginia state Capi­tol to crit­i­cize fel­low Repub­li­cans as soft and weak.

Mr. Ste­wart has also be­come as­so­ci­ated with his county’s strict poli­cies against il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion — an­other is­sue near and dear to the pres­i­dent.

He served as Mr. Trump’s 2016 Vir­ginia cam­paign chair­man but was fired late in the cam­paign for par­tic­i­pat­ing in a protest out­side of the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee build­ing in Washington, in a move he says demon­strated his loy­alty to Mr. Trump.

Some of his an­tics started to grate on elected Repub­li­cans in Vir­ginia — many of whom threw their sup­port to state Del­e­gate Nick Fre­itas, who also won out­side sup­port from pro-free mar­ket groups in­clud­ing Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­ity and na­tional con­ser­va­tives such as Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah.

With 100 per­cent of precincts

re­port­ing, Mr. Ste­wart won 45 per­cent of the vote to Mr. Fre­itas’s 43 per­cent, with Ch­e­sa­peake Bishop E.W. Jack­son fin­ish­ing third with 12 per­cent.

The Repub­li­can Party of Vir­ginia con­grat­u­lated Mr. Ste­wart in a state­ment say­ing that the party “plans to fin­ish strong and re­tire Tim Kaine once and for all.”

“It was a hard fought pri­mary, and any one of the three Repub­li­can can­di­dates would be miles bet­ter than Tim Kaine,” the state­ment said.

Mr. Fre­itas said Tues­day night he plans to sup­port the GOP ticket, but had raised ques­tions in the cam­paign’s clos­ing stretch about Mr. Ste­wart’s past ties to Paul Nehlen, a past chal­lenger to Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wis­con­sin Repub­li­can, who has come un­der fire for anti-Semitic and racially tinged post­ings on­line, as well as Ja­son Kessler, one of the or­ga­niz­ers of Au­gust’s “Unite the Right” rally in Char­lottesville.

Mr. Fre­itas said he doesn’t think Mr. Ste­wart is a racist but that he has shown “hor­ri­ble judg­ment” and that Democrats would re­peat­edly try to paint the party as racist if Mr. Ste­wart emerged as the nom­i­nee.

Mr. Ste­wart, mean­while, tried to go on of­fense, say­ing he doesn’t want any­thing to do with any­body who has racist views but that he is not go­ing to apol­o­gize for ev­ery “lu­natic” out there.

Mr. Kaine’s cam­paign quickly “wel­comed” Mr. Ste­wart into the gen­eral elec­tion con­test, where the in­cum­bent is the fa­vorite to win a sec­ond term in the Se­nate.

“A cruder im­i­ta­tion of Don­ald Trump who stokes white supremacy and brags about be­ing ‘ruth­less and vi­cious,’ Corey Ste­wart would be an em­bar­rass­ment for Vir­ginia in the U.S. Se­nate, where he would elim­i­nate health care for mil­lions of Amer­i­cans and slash pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing,” Kaine cam­paign spokesman Ian Sams said.

For­mer Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a Repub­li­can, lamented his party’s choice for their nom­i­nee, say­ing he’s “ex­tremely dis­ap­pointed” some­one like Mr. Ste­wart could win.

“This is clearly not the Repub­li­can Party I once knew, loved and proudly served. Ev­ery time I think things can’t get worse they do, and there is no end in sight,” Mr. Bolling said on Twit­ter.

Else­where in Vir­ginia, Democrats nom­i­nated State Sen. Jen­nifer Wex­ton to carry their anti-Trump mes­sage in the fall against Repub­li­can Rep. Barbara Com­stock, who dis­patched a pro-Trump pri­mary chal­lenger of her own in the closely watched 10th Con­gres­sional District race, which cuts from the District of Columbia sub­urbs to the West Vir­ginia bor­der.

Democrats said ir­re­spec­tive of the can­di­dates in the races, they want their votes to send a strong anti-Trump mes­sage to the White House, while Repub­li­cans said they want their bal­lots to show the pres­i­dent he still re­tains broad sup­port within the party and across the coun­try.

De­bra Fife, a hu­man re­sources pro­fes­sional from Ster­ling, said she used to be a Repub­li­can and con­sid­ered her­self a mod­er­ate with a right­ward lean on fis­cal is­sues but that she hopes vot­ers de­liver a clear anti-Trump mes­sage at the polls.

“As long as he’s in of­fice, I won’t vote for a Repub­li­can,” said Ms. Fife, 63. “Ev­ery­thing now is a con­test. There’s no col­lab­o­ra­tion. There’s no com­pro­mise. It’s ei­ther you win or you lose, and right now I don’t want him to win.”

Repub­li­cans, mean­while, said they want to be there to sup­port the pres­i­dent, and that re-elect­ing GOP mem­bers like Ms. Com­stock is the way to do that.

“I wish the Repub­li­cans would all make peace, stick to­gether, and I think we’d all be bet­ter off if they would,” said El­iz­a­beth Black­shaw, a 76-year-old retiree from McLean who sup­ported Mr. Ste­wart. “We’ve got enough Democrats call­ing us nasty names and stuff like that. We don’t need the Repub­li­cans do­ing it to each other.”

She also said peo­ple who had some reser­va­tions about Mr. Trump are be­gin­ning to see that he wasn’t such a bad choice, point­ing to this week’s sum­mit in Sin­ga­pore with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as one pos­i­tive sign.

“So we’ll just hope that the Repub­li­cans pre­vail,” she said. “If we could get some more Repub­li­cans in the Se­nate, I think that would help a lot.”

Mr. Trump him­self weighed in to sup­port sev­eral GOP can­di­dates via Twit­ter this week, in­clud­ing South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and Ne­vada At­tor­ney Gen­eral Adam Lax­alt, who is run­ning for gover­nor.

On Tues­day, hours be­fore the polls closed in South Carolina, Mr. Trump also en­dorsed Katie Ar­ring­ton, GOP Rep Mark San­ford’s pri­mary op­po­nent, call­ing Mr. San­ford “MIA” and “noth­ing but trou­ble.”

But in the Pal­metto State, Mr. McMaster was forced into a runoff for the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion, de­spite hav­ing been an early sup­porter of Mr. Trump’s cam­paign. He finished first in Tues­day’s pri­mary but didn’t get a 50 per­cent ma­jor­ity and must now square off with Greenville busi­ness­man John War­ren, who finished sec­ond, in a June 26 runoff. Long­time state Rep. James Smith eas­ily won the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion.

Pri­maries also were held in Maine, Ne­vada and North Dakota, but there were few sus­pense­ful or high-pro­file races. And in Maine, there were few re­sults Tues­day evening be­cause of that state’s use of an “in­stant runoff” sys­tem that re­quires vot­ers to rank their choices and makes cal­cu­la­tion ex­tremely com­pli­cated.

In North Dakota, Repub­li­can state Sen. Kelly Arm­strong won the pri­mary for her state’s U.S. House seat, eas­ily de­feat­ing for­mer Ma­rine Tif­fany Aben­troth and for­mer North Dakota State foot­ball player Paul Schaffner.

She is seek­ing to re­place Repub­li­can Rep. Kevin Cramer, who is chal­leng­ing for the U.S. Se­nate seat held by Demo­crat Heidi Heitkamp and eas­ily won his pri­mary.

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