RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A conservative provocateur and supporter of President Donald Trump won Virginia’s Republican primary Tuesday in the U.S. Senate race, and he has promised to run a “vicious” campaign against incumbent Tim Kaine.
Republican Corey Stewart beat state lawmaker Nick Freitas and Chesapeake minister E.W. Jackson. Stewart – who favors keeping Confederate monuments – had long been on the fringe of the state’s GOP; now the win makes him the standard-bearer of a deeply divided party that hasn’t won a statewide race in nearly a decade.
Stewart said he plans to campaign in a Trump-like way that appeals to blue collar voters across the political spectrum. He’s also pledged to run a “ruthless” and “vicious” campaign against Kaine.
“We’re going to have a lot of fun between now and November, folks,” Stewart told a raucous crowd at his victory party Tuesday evening.
The crowd chanted “Lock her up” and “Build the wall,” a throwback to popular chants at Trump’s campaign rallies.
A one-time state chairman of President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, Stewart nearly won the 2017 Republican nomination for governor, despite being heavily outspent.
Stewart campaigned heavily on preserving Virginia’s Confederate monuments and is an immigrant hard-liner who boasts of the number of immigrants in the country illegally who have been deported from his county.
The Prince William County Board of Supervisors chairman and attorney has courted controversy throughout his political career.
He was fired from the Trump campaign after staging an unsanctioned protest at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee, which Stewart said wasn’t sufficiently loyal to Trump during the presidential campaign.
No Democrats challenged Kaine, a former governor and 2016 vice-presidential candidate, for his party’s nomination.
Kaine spokesman Ian Sams called Stewart a “cruder imitation of Donald Trump who stokes white supremacy” and would be an “embarrassment for Virginia” if elected.
Once a key swing state whose Senate elections drew intense national interest, this year’s race has gotten scant attention. Kaine is the early favorite to win, and the Republican primary was noteworthy for how sleepy it was.
Several higher-profile Republicans floated the possibility of running against Kaine, but they did not follow through after Democrats scored huge victories in November in state-level elections. That left establishment Republicans to rally behind Freitas, a libertarian-leaning former Green Beret and two-term state House delegate.
Stewart’s victory upset many traditional Republicans. Former Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling said on Twitter he was “extremely disappointed” in Tuesday’s results.
“Every time I think things can’t get worse they do, and there is no end in sight,” Bolling said.