Antonio Olivo and Jenna Portnoy, Washington Post, July 13, 2017
Corey Stewart, the Prince William Republican who nearly won the GOP nomination for Virginia governor last month by running a populist campaign that celebrated the Confederacy and slammed illegal immigrants, says he will challenge Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) in 2018.
The move pits a hard-charging supporter of President Trump against Hillary Clinton’s former running mate in a state that often embodies the nation’s political crosscurrents.
“I’m going to run a very vicious and ruthless campaign against Tim Kaine and I’m going to win,” said Stewart, who planned to announce his intentions at a news conference scheduled for Thursday morning at his Woodbridge home. “No holds barred. The type of campaign we haven’t seen in Virginia in a generation.”
Stewart, who has boasted that he was “Trump before Trump was Trump,” said Democrats partly blame Kaine for losing the presidential race and called him a “nervous nelly.”
He said Kaine, who on Tuesday suggested that Trump may have obstructed justice and his associates could be guilty of treason, has been focused on Trump and not Virginia.
“He’s let his blind hatred of President Trump get in the way of addressing the real problems facing most Virginians,” Stewart said.
Stewart nearly upset former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie in the June GOP primary. He lost to Gillespie by 1.2 percentage points, shocking state party leaders and political observers who had dismissed him as a fringe candidate.
He said he decided to run for the GOP nomination to challenge Kaine on the strength of his primary performance.
His embrace of “Southern heritage” issues and disdain for the Republican establishment drew support from white nationalists and many Trump voters in the western part of the state as well as Southwest and Southside Virginia and his own Prince William County.
His campaign was defined by attention-getting antics, like giving away an assault rifle at a shooting range and unfurling Confederate flags at rallies. He got into a Twitter war with musician John Legend and others over the removal of Confederate statues in New Orleans.
Stewart served as Donald Trump’s Virginia campaign chairman for much of last year, until he became too over-the-top for even the Trump campaign that it fired him.
The native Minnesotan later said that his controversial stances were part of a deliberate strategy to garner media attention and inflame voter passion — something that has marked Stewart’s political career since he spearheaded a crackdown against illegal immigration while running for the county chair seat in 2007.
Stewart would be the first Republican to announce plans to challenge Kaine next year, but Carly Fiorina, the former GOP presidential candidate, and conservative radio host Laura Ingraham have both said they are considering it.