Corey Stewart, Chairman of the Prince William Board of Supervisors and former Trump campaign Virginia chairman, announced he is challenging Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) for his U.S. Senate seat Thursday.
Stewart shocked pollsters and pundits by coming within 6,000 votes of winning the Republican primary for Virginia governor after being written off as a fringe candidate for his appeals to Trump’s nationalist-populist base and pledges to protect Confederate memorials in Virginia.
“I am going to run the most vicious, ruthless campaign to dethrone Time Kaine from the United States Senate,” Stewart told reporters assembled outside the historic Bel Air Plantation in Woodbridge, Virginia, where he makes his home.
Stewart directed his new campaign pitch at the Trump Republicans, fed-up with establishment GOP capitulation and compromise, who turned out so unexpectedly for him in his gubernatorial campaign. He repeatedly refused to distance himself from President Donald Trump and repeated his campaign line that he was “Trump before Trump was Trump.”
He referenced President George H.W. Bush’s 1989 inaugeration address as the source of his own frustration. “I was disgusted at the phrase ‘the kinder, gentler nation,” Stewart told reporters. “I knew then it was the end of the Reagan Revolution. I want to let you know that the era of the kinder, gentler Republican is over.”
“Clearly I’ve got a base. Clearly there’s an appetite for a Republican fighter, and that’s what I’m going to give people,” Stewart later told a reporter.
Asked by Breitbart News about the current state of Senate Republicans and their support for the president’s adgenda, Stewart said, “Certain Republicans Senators have been very very good, others have not obviously.”
To that end, Stewart cited manufacturing jobs and trade as issues of particular concern.
Stewart suggested he would align with the “conservative crowd” among potential Senate colleagues, naming Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) as examples of those he could work with. He supported a “full repeal” of Obamacare, but said he did not like the healthcare bill currently before the Senate. Explaining his plans, he told Breitbart News:
I am a team player, I can work to get things done … That doesn’t mean we’re not going to have our fights, because I’m a fighter … I want the Republican Party to know that when I’m elected I’m going to be able to work with them, I’m going to be helping to move the Republican Party to the right and implement the president’s conservative agenda.
Immigration has always been a central element of Stewart’s agenda. He came onto the national political scene when, as a Prince William County supervisor, he used “287(g) authority” to force the County’s jails to make immigration status checks on inmates. Asked by Breitbart News about his immigration plans going forward, Stewart reiterated his pledge to require the use of this authority nationwide and building the southern border wall:
First, you’ve got to have border security … You’ve got to build the wall. I will do everything in my power, I will be a very forceful voice for building the wall on the Mexican border. Second, you’ve got to mandate the use of 287(g) to every locality, to every jail in the United States of America. And that is very simple. If somebody is arrested for a crime, you check immigration status and if they’re here illegally, they’re deported. That’s my position.
After a very contentious primary campaign, Stewart appeared to bury the hatchet with the GOP nominee for Virginia governor, establishment favorite Ed Gillespie. Stewart pledged not to get in the way of Gillespie’s campaign against Democratic Leiutenant Governor Ralph Northam with his early Senate announcement. “I hope he wins. I’m voting for him. I’m encouraging all my supporters to vote for him and work for him,” he said.
Asked if he would “endorse” Gillespie, however, Stewart dismissed the question, saying, “Everybody who supported me, I encourage all of them to go ahead and vote [and] work for Ed Gillespie … I hope he wins … Look, I’ve always thought endorsements from other politicians are kinda BS.”
Stewart turned some of his attention to his prospective general election opponent and Hillary Clinton running-mate Tim Kaine. It is unclear what Kaine’s association with the failed Clinton campaign, which included a disastrous debate performance against eventual Vice President Mike Pence, will have on the race. “It’s time we had a United States Senator who’s going to support the president, not try to obstruct his way. We currently have a senator in Tim Kaine who is doing everything in his power to stop the President of the United States,” he said.
Stewart was skeptical that Kaine’s improved name recognition from the presidential campaign would work in his favor. “I think there are a lot of Democrats out there who frankly don’t think that [Kaine] did a very good job as Hillary Clinton’s running mate. There are a lot of Democrats out there who are very disappointed in him,” he said.
Reporters questioned Stewart about the “Russia scandal” and it’s potential effect on the race. He called the story “a bunch of bullocks” and noted “Russia” is not something average Virginians wake up worrying about. Stewart told reporters:
Tim Kaine wakes up every morning and thinks about Russia. Tim Kaine wakes up every morning and with a blind hatred towards the president, is so focused on taking down the president of the United States that he’s ignoring the true needs of Virginians.
Stewart shot back at the naysayers who predicted he would not come close in his gubernatorial bid and are likely to do the same for his Senate campaign. He argued that pollsters do not understand the new political situation. “2016 changed everything. So many people who were never active in the primary process on the Republican side were energized and activated by President Trump. They’re not going home,” he told Breitbart News.