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Local Republicans back Stewart’s winning bid

SoVaNow.com / June 14, 2018
Halifax County voters boosted the winner of the Virginia Republican Senate primary, Corey Stewart, by giving him a 58 percent margin of victory in a light turnout election on Tuesday.

Stewart defeated rivals Nick Freitas and E.W. Jackson to lead the Virginia GOP ticket in the November general election. Stewart will face incumbent Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, who is heavily favored for re-election.

Statewide, Stewart garnered 44.9 percent of the vote, edging out Freitas with 43.1 percent. Jackson, a Chesapeake minister and unsuccessful candidate for Virginia Lt. Governor in 2013, lagged way behind with 12 percent.

Stewart carried Halifax despite endorsements by local party leaders such as Del. James Edmunds for Freitas, a member of the House of Delegates.

“The party pretty much spoke in that primary,” said Korey Snead, Halifax County Republican Unit Chair.

617 people in Halifax came out to vote for Stewart, compared to 364 for Frietas and 81 for Jackson.

Stewart, who serves as chairman of the Prince William Board of Supervisors, was shunned by many party leaders during the campaign for his extreme rhetoric and ties to white nationalist leaders. Chairman of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential effort in Virginia before he was let go by the campaign, Stewart in turn has taken aim at members of the party establishment, taunting them with toilet paper after some GOP lawmakers sided with Democrats to pass Medicaid expansion in the General Assembly.

Stewart, a Minnesota native, also has campaigned on keeping the Confederate flag and symbols in public venues and has criticized fellow Republicans for condemning the organizers of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.

Former Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling responded to Stewart’s primary victory Tuesday night with a Twitter post, “This is clearly not the Republican Party I once knew.”

After claiming the win, Stewart pledged to run a “vicious” campaign against Kaine.

Snead attributed Stewart’s victory in Halifax County and many other rural areas of the state in part to his strong position on trade, which echoes the views of the Trump White House.

“[Nick] Frietas was more along the lines of being a traditional free trader than Corey Stewart,” he explained.

He also dismissed the criticism by Bolling, asking, “Is there any point since 2012 where he has been happy to be associated with the Republican Party?

“I don’t put a lot of stock in what Bill Bowling says,” Snead added.

The county party chairman conceded that Stewart has an uphill climb in the general election: “Tim Kaine will be [a] very hard candidate to beat regardless of who goes up against him.

While Stewart signaled a willingness to campaign harshly against Kaine, Snead said he believes the voters of Virginia are tired of mudslinging and want to hear about real policy. He said he believed Stewart would hold up his end of the bargain: “We have two great candidates. We should see some good debates.

“I think Corey’s a pitbull. If he’s attacked, he’ll attack back, but I think they can have an impassioned debate over policy issues.”

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