Virginia voters turned thumbs down to Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential race and the party of the sick elephant doomed its chance to unseat popular Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine in this year’s 2018 midterm elections by selecting hate-filled Corey Stewart as the Republican challenger.
Former Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bowling said it best in a Tuesday night tweet:
I am extremely disappointed that a candidate like Corey Stewart could win the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. This is clearly not the Republican Party I once knew, loved and proudly served. Every time I think things can’t get worse they do, and there is no end in sight.
While Stewart presented himself as an outright Trump clone, the race for the GOP nomination to oppose Kaine in the Senatorial race this year gave voters not much of a choice. All three candidates supported Trump.
Second-term delegate Nick Freitas of Culpeper blamed school shooters on “the abortion industry.”
Democrats all but wiped out the once 2-1 Republican majority in the Virginia House last year and the newly constituted General Assembly voted to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act after four straight years of defeat at the hands GOP domination.
Polls show Trump with low overall approval ratings in Virginia, which is why the Old Dominion became the only Southern state to vote against him in 2016 and Kaine is expected to easily win re-election to the Senate against Stewart this fall.
Stewart’s win for the GOP shows how splits continue to hurt the party. Freitas had strong endorsements by the Koch’s Americans for Prosperity, the National Rifle Association and Sen. Rand Paul.
Paul’s America’s Liberty PAC dumped $225,000 into a TV campaign for Freitas in the final week of the primary race and even that didn’t stop Stewart from winning.
Like Trump, Stewart also aligns himself with white supremacists. He sought help from the far-right racist groups early on in his campaign then later tried to disavow their support.
Stewart, in a video shot during Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20 of last year, called Paul Nehlin, self-professed “pro-white” candidate for Congress in Wisconsin, his “personal hero” and praised him openly.
On that same night, Nehlin posted a number of tweets on Twitter attacking Muslims and Jews and posted an altered picture of Meghan Markel, now England’s Duchess of Sussex.
Stewart, under fire, quickly removed mention of Nehlin from his campaign website, and said his hero “went nuts and started spewing a bunch of stupid stuff.”
But aligning himself with racists is a habit with Steward, who attended a news conference with Jason Kessler, organizer of the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville dominated by violence and the murder of a 32-year-old woman who opposed the white supremacist.
Stewart’s actions brought a strong response from primary opponent Freitas:
I’m getting a little tired of the Republican Party getting slammed with these sort of accusations because someone like Corey Stewart can’t figure out who he should not be associating with. This isn’t him getting caught in a picture with somebody. This is him proactively associating himself with these people.
That, however, did not stop Stewart from becoming the Republican nominee for the Senate this year. It didn’t stop the party from selecting another racist, former Governor and Senator George Allen in losing campaigns for Senate against Jim Webb and Kaine.
Political science professor Stephen J. Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg says Stewart’s tactics of support for Confederate monuments and waving a roll of toilet paper to object to expansion of Medicaid may turn on the extreme right-wing elements of Virginia Republicans but they are, thankfully, a shrinking minority in the Old Dominion.
“His ability to generate headlines over such things as waving toilet paper in Richmond and the Confederate legacy movement are poison with those moderate suburban voters who decide statewide elections in Virginia,” Farnsworth told The Washington Post. “The strategy that wins a Republican nomination may doom a general-election candidacy.”