Ste­wart tough sell to Repub­li­cans in Se­nate cam­paign

Trump style turns many away

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

Pres­i­dent Trump says he is sup­port­ing Corey Ste­wart, the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee in Vir­ginia’s Se­nate race, but other party lead­ers call the race a political time bomb and are re­luc­tant to fol­low him.

Mr. Ste­wart emerged as the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee Tues­day after run­ning a bruis­ing Trump-style cam­paign. Pri­mary vot­ers re­warded his tough stance on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, and lib­eral re­porters de­clared him a racist.

In Novem­ber, Mr. Ste­wart will face Sen. Tim Kaine, a Demo­crat who is seek­ing a sec­ond term. Mr. Trump called Mr. Kaine a “to­tal stiff” and urged Vir­ginia vot­ers to give Mr. Ste­wart a chance.

“Don’t un­der­es­ti­mate Corey, a ma­jor chance of win­ning!” the pres­i­dent tweeted.

Se­nate Repub­li­cans, though, doubted they would give Mr.

Ste­wart much help in his quest to join them.

“Right now we’re fo­cused on Florida, North Dakota, Mis­souri, In­di­ana — a big map, and I don’t see Vir­ginia in it,” Sen. Cory Gard­ner, the Colorado Repub­li­can who heads the Na­tional Repub­li­can Sen­a­to­rial Com­mit­tee, told CNN.

Brian Schoen­e­man, a past Repub­li­can can­di­date in Vir­ginia, said he left the Se­nate slot blank on his pri­mary bal­lot Tues­day.

“I can’t vote for Ste­wart,” Mr. Schoen­e­man said. “His whole phi­los­o­phy of gov­ern­ing is anath­ema to me. All the im­mi­gra­tion-bait­ing … all the Con­fed­er­ate crap and the hang­ing-out with the Ja­son Kesslers of the world — that’s the ex­act an­tithe­sis of ev­ery­thing I’ve been try­ing to do with the party the last 20 years.”

Mr. Ste­wart rode an un­apolo­get­i­cally pro-Trump mes­sage to vic­tory with a blunt style, ad­vo­cacy of Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ments and her­itage, and past as­so­ci­a­tions with con­tro­ver­sial fig­ures.

He said he ex­pects his em­brace of Mr. Trump’s mes­sage will be ral­ly­ing point for Vir­ginia Repub­li­cans — as will his fierce op­po­si­tion to Mr. Kaine.

“This is Pres­i­dent Trump’s party,” Mr. Ste­wart said. “My mis­sion is to get out Trump sup­port­ers and those who rec­og­nize the suc­cesses of the pres­i­dent.”

Mr. Ste­wart was a state chair­man for Mr. Trump’s 2016 cam­paign un­til he got ousted for stag­ing a protest at the na­tional party’s head­quar­ters, ac­cus­ing it of un­der­min­ing Mr. Trump.

This year, Mr. Ste­wart staged a protest for him­self out­side of NRSC head­quar­ters, say­ing party lead­ers were con­spir­ing against him. But he said Wed­nes­day that he ex­pects Repub­li­can sen­a­tors will even­tu­ally fol­low Mr. Trump’s lead and em­brace him.

“I’ve got his sup­port, and that’s what counts,” he said. “And as the race be­comes more com­pet­i­tive I ex­pect the NRSC will come and sup­port me fi­nan­cially as well.”

Mr. Ste­wart has fended off a bar­rage of ques­tions in re­cent days over his past con­nec­tions to peo­ple like Paul Nehlen, a Repub­li­can chal­lenger to Speaker Paul D. Ryan in Wis­con­sin who has come un­der fire for anti-Semitic and racially tinged post­ings on­line, as well as Mr. Kessler, one of the or­ga­niz­ers of the “Unite the Right” rally in Au­gust in Charlottesville.

Mr. Ste­wart called Mr. Nehlen “one of my per­sonal he­roes” in a video from Jan­uary 2017 but dis­tanced him­self when the con­tro­ver­sial com­ments sur­faced this year.

He ap­peared with Mr. Kessler at an event in Fe­bru­ary 2017, sev­eral months be­fore the push to re­move a statue of Robert E. Lee from a public space in Charlottesville helped ig­nite a vi­o­lent clash be­tween white su­prem­a­cists and coun­ter­protesters that left one wo­man dead.

Mr. Ste­wart said at the time that the neo-Nazis in­volved in the march should be con­demned but called out the left for not con­demn­ing vi­o­lence per­pe­trated by move­ments such as an­tifa. He echoed lan­guage from Mr. Trump, who said there were “very fine peo­ple” on both sides of the protest.

Mr. Ste­wart says he has dis­avowed neoNazi fig­ures but doesn’t re­gret op­pos­ing calls to take down his­tor­i­cal mon­u­ments.

“We need to stop them from do­ing that, be­cause not only is that a com­plete waste of tax­payer fund­ing, but Vir­gini­ans love their his­tory. They don’t want to see it de­stroyed,” he said.

Mr. Kaine’s cam­paign said this week that Mr. Ste­wart “stokes white supremacy,” but the can­di­date stopped short of calling his ri­val a racist.

State Del­e­gate Nick Fre­itas, who ran against Mr. Ste­wart in the pri­mary, raised ques­tions about those ties in the clos­ing stretch of the cam­paign. He said he doesn’t think Mr. Ste­wart is a racist but has shown “hor­ri­ble judg­ment.”

Rep. Bar­bara Com­stock, who won her pri­mary race in Vir­ginia’s 10th Con­gres­sional District, said Wed­nes­day that it was pre­ma­ture to say whether she would cam­paign with Mr. Ste­wart.

“We haven’t talked about that yet,” she told ra­dio host John Fred­er­icks. “I fo­cus on my district, on the is­sues in my district, and this is a very in­de­pen­dent elec­torate. And that’s what he will have to do too, and I imag­ine he will.”

Jack Mor­gan, a Ste­wart ally who worked for Ed Gille­spie’s cam­paign in the gov­er­nor’s race last year, pre­dicted that the Repub­li­can base will even­tu­ally come around.

“Corey’s the nom­i­nee. He’s now the top-run­ning Repub­li­can in the state. That’s what our party looks like right now,” said Mr. Mor­gan, who was the 9th Con­gres­sional District chair­man for Mr. Trump’s 2016 cam­paign.

Repub­li­cans this decade have re­peat­edly nom­i­nated con­tro­ver­sial can­di­dates, in some in­stances cost­ing them races they oth­er­wise could have won, an­a­lysts say. Tea party can­di­dates in 2010 and 2012 squan­dered winnable races, as did Roy Moore, the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee in a spe­cial elec­tion last year in Alabama.

An­a­lysts say they have long ex­pected Mr. Kaine to win re-elec­tion in a state trending in­creas­ingly Demo­cratic.

Mr. Schoen­e­man said that may ex­plain what he de­scribed as a rel­a­tively weak Repub­li­can field in the Se­nate pri­mary.

“Corey didn’t win this be­cause Repub­li­cans [in] Vir­ginia sud­denly de­cided that they want to run pro-Con­fed­er­ate, al­tright-lov­ing guys for office,” Mr. Schoen­e­man said. “He’s been run­ning for three years. You do that long enough, and you’re go­ing to pull it off at least once.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.