In statewide results from Tuesday’s Republican primary for governor, the extremism that has consumed the GOP threw a scare into the party of the elephant as self-declared “Trump mini-me” Corey Stewart took his campaign of hate to within a percentage point of victory over Ed Gillespie in his campaign to destroy what little sanity is left in the political landscape.
In Floyd County, where Republicans have long dominated local politics, Stewart’s message of stauch protection of icons of the loss in America’s Civil War more than a century and a half ago, along with hateful rhetoric about immigrants and race, gave the Prince William County supervisor a big win over Gillespie and leaves local Republicans worries about their own political futures down the pike.
Stewart won 56.89 percent of the vote in Floyd County (380 votes to Gillespie’s 227). Statewide, Gillespie took a razor thin edge victory with 43.71 percent to the 42.53 percent total for Stewart. Frank W. Wagner played the spoiler with 13.75 percent.
On the Democratic side, current Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam easily won statewide with 55.90 percent statewide over former Congressman Tom Perriello.
In Floyd County, however, the results were a different picture with Perriello taking 73.91 percent of the local vote and Northam only getting 26.09.
Two factors probably created that lopsided difference: Perriello strongly opposed the natural pipelines that have generated strong resistance in the county and he also had the endorsement of maverick Democrat — and self-declared socialist — Bernie Sanders, who carried the county over Hillary Clinton the Presidential primary in 2016.
Both locally and statewide, Tuesday’s primary results showcase serious conditions for Republicans in the 2017 elections. The party that exists today is a fringe operation that is far from the one I worked for as a political operative in the 1980s in Washington.
Corey Stewart openly courted white nationalists in Virginia and locally. His divisive language of hate appealed to the worst elements of of the Old Dominion. Those with more moderate views with the GOP stayed home. In Floyd County, where Republicans clearly outnumber Democrats, the party of the donkey drew more votes than the GOP.
In last year’s Presidential election, the bombastic Trump easily won in Floyd County and most of Southwestern Virginia but lost overall in the state because of Northern Virginia and Tidewater voters who now control the overall election results for the Commonwealth.
Is Floyd County out of touch with the rest of Virginia? The last two elections could leave longtime political watchers saying “yes.” Gillespie, the longtime GOP operative in Northern Virginia, lost the governor’s race four years ago to Terry McAuliffe.
This time around, his chances rest on the what may or may not be the “power” of the Trump vote in Virginia. We already know GOP extremists control Floyd County so the future of state government may well rest with those who disagree with the more moderate views of Northern Virginia and Tidewater.
Corey Stewart’s results Tuesday shows us that hate and devise rhetoric still stir anger and disruption in the ballot box.
“There is one word you will never hear from me, and that’s unity,” Stewart says. “We’ve been backing down too long. We’ve been backing down too long in defense of our culture, and our heritage and our country.”
As with the current President that he idolizes, Stewart’s language is more bluster than fact. Let’s hope he does not speak for a majority of Virginians.