If elected to the U.S. Senate, Corey Stewart says he won't fight to fly the Confederate flag in Washington but will fight for the “average Joe," because "the era of the kinder, gentler Republican is over.”
During the official announcement Thursday of his bid to seek the GOP nomination to challenge incumbent Sen. Tim Kaine (D), Stewart harkened back to the phrase made famous by President George H.W. Bush when he won the White House nearly three decades ago.
But rather than embrace the elder Bush’s sentiments, Stewart said he was “disgusted" at the phrase back in 1989 and used it to contrast his latest campaign. Instead of "kinder and gentler," Stewart promised to be "vicious and ruthless."
“I want to let you know that the era of a kinder, gentler Republican is over. I’m going to run the most vicious, ruthless campaign to dethrone Tim Kaine,” Stewart said. “It’s time the Republicans take back that seat. It’s time we have a United States senator who’s going to support the president, not try to obstruct his way.”
Stewart, 48, made the remarks during a steamy late-morning press conference outside Bel Air Plantation, the 18th century Woodbridge home he shares with his wife, Maria, and their two teenage sons. Stewart is the at-large chairman of the Prince William Board of Supervisors. This is his third run for statewide office since he was elected to the post in 2006.
Stewart accused Kaine of “doing everything in his power to stop” President Trump “from making the economy great again, from bringing back jobs, from reforming health care and making America great again.”
Stewart’s announcement comes exactly one month after he narrowly lost his bid for the GOP gubernatorial nomination to former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie. Stewart said he also chose July 13 because it's his wife Maria's birthday, who joined him at the podium in their front yard.
Stewart said he decided to run again because he’d built up “a big base” of support during the spring campaign and because he is itching to get back on the trail.
“These last four weeks have been excruciating for me. Being outside of the ring is painful. I need to be back in it,” Stewart said.
“Clearly there’s an appetite for a Republican fighter and that’s what I’m going to give people,” he added. “They’re looking for a vicious, ruthless Republican conservative fighter who’s going to take back the U.S. Senate.”
When asked what he meant by “vicious and ruthless,” Stewart said only that he’s “not holding back any punches” and would “fight back.”
In response to reporters’ questions, Stewart said he’s not sure how his defense of the Confederate monuments and the Confederate flag – a centerpiece of his gubernatorial race -- will play into his race for the U.S. Senate. He said would not support flying the Confederate flag at the Capitol, but promised to continue "to stand up for our heritage.”
“The country has only one flag," Stewart said. "My point is this, we have to stop tearing down history, we have to stop denigrating the South. We have to stop denigrating Southerners. We have to stop denigrating working-class people.”
Stewart also promised to be a strong defender of President Trump and said he would join conservative Senate Republicans to work toward “a full repeal and replacement of Obamacare.”
Stewart said he would seek to eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s “essential benefits,” which require insurance companies to cover a certain mix of health care services, and would advocate “block-granting” Medicaid funding to the states so they “can come up with their own health care systems for the poor.”
Critics of the Senate health care bill decry its deep cuts to Medicaid, which Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has said will affect everything from helping poor seniors pay for nursing home care to helping schools and families care for disabled children.
“Medicaid has been a disaster,” Stewart said. “Medicaid is too costly for the taxpayer … It’s only become more costly and less efficient.”
Stewart called the ongoing investigations into the Trump campaign’s possible ties with the Russian government “a bunch of bollocks” and said he doubts recent polls placing the president’s approval rating in Virginia at just 36 percent.
Citing their failure to predict the results of the June 13 primary, Stewart said: “I think polls are a bunch of B.S.”
Stewart’s announcement was not well received by a few of his fellow supervisors who were reached for comment Thursday morning. All three – two Republicans and one Democrat -- criticized Stewart for returning to the campaign trail and diverting his focus from Prince William County.
The Republicans, Supervisors Pete Candland (Gainesville) and Jeanine Lawson (Brentsville), are already miffed at Stewart for bending Robert’s Rules of Order to shepherd a June 27 vote to approve a sewer connection for a new mosque in Nokesville on land inside the county’s “Rural Crescent,” where sewer connections are generally prohibited to limit sprawl. The two are also at odds with Stewart’s efforts to build a new county-backed stadium for the Potomac Nationals.
On Thursday, Candland said he “absolutely” would not endorse Stewart’s run for U.S. Senate.
“For the last four years, he’s done everything he can to flee the county,” Candland said of Stewart’s recent bids for higher office. “A lot of us are going to be looking at how this impacts his job and, frankly, how his campaign impacts Prince William County.”
Lawson said Stewart has “completely abdicated” his responsibility to Prince William residents. “I certainly have no intention of endorsing him,” she added.
Supervisor Frank Principi, D-Woodbridge, who has voted alongside Stewart on both the stadium and the mosque, said Stewart is clearly “fired up” from his unexpectedly strong showing in the GOP primary. Still, Principi added: “I wish he would focus his efforts on Prince William County rather than his own agenda.”
The Republican Party of Virginia has so far remained mum on Stewart’s candidacy but Democratic Party of Virginia Chairwoman Susan Swecker came out swinging, saying “the last thing Virginia needs is a rubber stamp” for President Trump.
"Corey Stewart is even more extreme than Donald Trump,” Swecker’s statement said. “Corey has completely ignored the needs of families in Prince William County to instead spend his time name-calling, bashing immigrants and re-litigating the Civil War. When he rarely turns his attention to the county he was elected to represent, he calls his colleagues 'slimeballs' and pushes an anti-immigrant, backwards agenda that has left working families behind.”
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