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Who is Corey Stewart, Virginia’s Extremely Anti-Immigrant Republican Candidate for Senate?

 

Tonight, Corey Stewart won the Republican nomination for United States Senate in Virginia. There’s a lot of competition for which candidate will be the most extreme, anti-immigrant nominee running this year, but, given his long, sordid history, Stewart is going to be among the worst. We’ve been following his career for over a decade. Now, he’s on a national stage as a Senate candidate. His anti-immigrant views and his ties to neo-Nazi and white nationalists will be on full display.

Here are just some of the most egregious examples of Stewart’s record.

As County Supervisor of Prince William County, Stewart oversaw passage of an harsh anti-immigrant enforcement law in 2007. Within a year, his fellow supervisors had to modify the law because of the costs, which were going to result in tax increase.

In 2010, Stewart launched a failed effort to take his county law to the state level, emulating Arizona:

The chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors is calling on Virginia legislators to pass a law cracking down on illegal immigration similar to a controversial Arizona measure.

Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large) said he will spend the rest of the year lobbying the General Assembly to pass legislation that enhances law enforcement powers to capture, detain and deport illegal aliens; curbs illegal day laboring; and creates specific state penalties for illegal immigrants. He called the effort the “Virginia Rule of Law Campaign.”

Prince William has received national attention for its own crackdown on illegal immigration. The county’s law, which was enacted in 2007 and modified in 2008, requires that police officers inquire into the immigration status of all people who are arrested on suspicion of violating a state or local law.

Despite Stewart’s efforts, the demographics of the county continued to change. As the Washington Post noted in November of 2013:

Prince William became a ­majority-minority county a few years ago; its non-Hispanic white population has shrunk to 47 percent. Hispanics are the next largest group, at 21 percent, followed by African Americans at 20 percent and Asians at 8 percent. More than 21 percent are foreign born, almost double the proportion in the rest of Virginia.

In 2017, Stewart ran in the GOP primary for Governor of Virginia. On April 4, 2017, CNN reported that a “Candidate for Virginia governor was endorsed by prominent neo-Confederate at ‘Old South Ball’”. That candidate was Stewart:

A prominent member of the neo-Confederate movement endorsed Virginia gubernatorial candidate Corey Stewart during a Civil War-era themed ‘Old South Ball’ in early April.

Stewart, a trade attorney and chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, is challenging frontrunner Ed Gillespie in Virginia’s Republican primary for governor. Stewart has made defending Virginia’s history as a Confederate state during the Civil War a visible issue in his campaign and, on his website, has referred to calls to remove statues of prominent Confederate figures as ‘historical vandalism.’

After Stewart concluded a fiery speech defending the Confederate Flag and southern heritage at the event in Danville, Virginia, Richard Hines, the chairman of Save Southern Heritage, joined Stewart and expressed the group’s support for his campaign.

“I’m Richard Hines of Save Southern Heritage, and I want you to know here tonight Save Southern Heritage, we had endorsed Donald Trump in the presidential primaries and we endorse Corey Stewart,” Hines said in a video from the event uploaded on Facebook.

In August of 2017, the eyes of the world were focused on the Nazi rally in Charlottesville and the violence which resulted in the death of activist Heather Heyer. While most leaders spoke out against the protesters, there were two GOP leaders who didn’t adopt that tone. One was Donald Trump, who infamously spoke of “both sides.” The other was Corey Stewart as reported in the Washington Post on August 13, 2017:

Corey A. Stewart, who is running for U.S. Senate and nearly won the Republican nomination for governor of Virginia on a pledge to preserve the state’s Confederate monuments, said white nationalists had been unfairly singled out for their role in the weekend chaos in Charlottesville that left three dead and dozens injured.

Stewart’s remarks Sunday ran counter to sentiments expressed by most other Virginia politicians, from both parties…

…“All the weak Republicans, they couldn’t apologize fast enough,” Stewart said in an interview with The Washington Post. “They played right into the hands of the left wing. Those [Nazi] people have nothing to do with the Republican Party. There was no reason to apologize.”

However, Stewart has made several joint appearances with Jason Kessler, organizer of the “Unite the Right” rally that sparked the unrest in Charlottesville.

Stewart met Kessler at an event earlier this year to protest the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park in Charlottesville. And at one point during the primary race, Stewart attended a Charlottesville news conference with Kessler and Isaac Smith, founders of Unity and Security for America (USA), a fledgling group that calls for “defending Western Civilization.”

On primary night 2017, Stewart came much closer than expected to the eventual Republican nominee, Ed Gillespie. During their race, Gillespie mirrored the ugly rhetoric of Stewart. Instead of pivoting back to the center during the general election, Gillespie kept with the message — which did the opposite of working out.

In May of 2018, Ron Brownstein provided an analysis of the 2017 Governor’s race, noting that the Gillespie’s strategy of emulating Stewart “backfired”:

These maneuvers confirmed a pattern established in earlier Trump-era Republican contests. In last year’s Republican gubernatorial primary in Virginia, Ed Gillespie narrowly beat anti-immigration firebrand Corey Stewart. But during the general election, Gillespie—who years earlier, as the Republican National Committee chairman, had championed a more inclusive party—swerved toward nativist themes, with ads darkly warning of threats from the Central American gang MS-13.

However, Gillespie’s anti-immigrant attacks backfired last November, both energizing progressives and voters of color and driving suburban white voters away from the intolerance coming out of the Republican campaign.

During his 2018 Campaign for Senate, Stewart, of course engaged in the same kind of fearmongering:

In robo-calls and campaign stops through some of Fairfax’s wealthiest neighborhoods, Stewart promised to “Make Fairfax Safe Again” — and portrayed the county of 1.1 million residents as being overrun by criminal gangs while falsely claiming that Fairfax has “declared itself a ‘sanctuary city.’ ”

“The time has come to end the scourge of illegal aliens who are preying on law-abiding United States citizens here in Fairfax County,” Stewart said during a rally in front of the Fairfax County Detention Center that was attended by about 50 supporters. “We are going to take Fairfax back and we are going to destroy MS-13.”

The strategy mirrors that of President Trump, who has repeatedly fanned fears over MS-13 — shorthand for Mara Salvatrucha — to score political points, most recently accusing House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of being an “MS-13 lover.”

To back his own claims, Stewart relies on uncertain gang population estimates and only a partial view of crime data.

As Mediaite reported on June 4, 2018, Stewart also promoted his ties to a prominent white nationalist while touting the support of a Neo-Nazi:

Corey Stewart, the GOP front-runner in Virginia’s Senate race, called white nationalist Paul Nehlen “one of my personal heroes” on-camera and praised an apparent neo-Nazi his campaign’s official “volunteer of the week.”

And:

Predictably, Stewart’s ties to racists trickle down to his campaign. A recent email sent out by the Republican’s team praised apparent neo-Nazi Ian Phil MacDonald as their “volunteer of the week.”….MacDonald is no typical conservative activist, however. A scan of his Facebook page revealed that the Stewart campaign volunteer identifies politically with late-white supremacist and founder of the American Nazi Party George Lincoln Rockwell.

Stewart will run an ugly, anti-immigrant campaign this fall because it’s clearly who he is. But as his home state of Virginia showed just last year, this tactic is unlikely to work.