Corey Stewart Narrowly Avoids Freitas Upset in Virginia Senate Primary

Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, narrowly defeated Delegate Nick Freitas in Tuesday’s Virginia Senate primary. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Stewart led Freitas by 1.7 points—just over 5,000 total votes statewide—much closer than many had predicted. “It would be an upset if Stewart does lose,” the Cook Political Report‘s Jennifer Duffy said last week. In the final days of the campaign, Stewart came under fire for his past associations with extremists Jason Kessler and Paul Nehlen.

While Stewart quickly repudiated Kessler, who had cheered the death of a woman killed by a neo-Nazi in Charlottesville in 2017, the Virginia Senate candidate was slow to distance himself from Nehlen after a January 2017 video emerged in which Stewart called Nehlen his “personal hero.”

[O]n Monday, the
Daily Wire
drew attention to a January 2017 YouTube video in which Stewart appears alongside Paul Nehlen, a
vicious bigot. Stewart calls Nehlen “one of my personal heroes… I can’t tell you how much I was inspired by you.” (The video was taken down from
Stewart’s YouTube page sometime Monday but may still be viewed
here.) Nehlen did not publicly reveal his virulent anti-Semitism until later in 2017, after that YouTube video was recorded, but during his 2016 primary campaign against Paul Ryan, Nehlen did say we should consider
deporting all Muslims in the United States. (The Washington Post
reported in December 2015 that “Stewart says he disagrees with Trump’s idea for a ban against [foreign] Muslims.”)

When asked for comment on Nehlen, Stewart’s campaign issued a statement Monday evening to THE WEEKLY STANDARD that reads in full: “Sadly it’s unsurprising to see the establishment Republicans continue to play the race card against President Trump’s most vocal supporters.” There was no repudiation of Nehlen in that statement. Asked again Monday night if Stewart still thinks of Nehlen as a “hero” in light of Nehlen’s rank bigotry, the campaign has provided no further comment. Stewart’s rejection of Jason Kessler but silence on Paul Nehlen is bizarre, to say the least, as a matter of politics.

Stewart finally issued a statement late Wednesday night saying he had “distanced” himself from Nehlen. In the past, Stewart had also promoted the birther conspiracy theory: “@TheDemocrats got cocky forging @BarackObama birth certificate,” Stewart tweeted in December. But he distanced himself from that conspiracy theory in a June 2 interview with TWS, saying: “I’ve never bought into that birther stuff.” He claimed his December 2017 tweet “was trying to demonstrate the point of how ridiculous the left is.” Asked if he rejects the alt-right, Stewart said: “Well, I don’t even know what it is. I mean, I don’t know. Somebody’s going to have to come up with a definition of what the alt-right is.”

Neither Stewart nor Freitas was expected to run a competitive race against Tim Kaine in Virginia in 2018, but the more controversial Stewart could hurt Republicans in competitive House races downballot. Stewart’s nomination is “probably not helpful for GOP chances of holding #VA02, #VA07, #VA10 & maybe #VA05 (near Freitas’s home),” tweeted the Cook Political Report‘s David Wasserman.

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