Fired Trump staffer wins Virginia Senate primary

DCNFThomas Phippen, DCNF

Corey Stewart (photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Political firebrand Corey Stewart barely defeated fellow Republicans in the Virginia Senate primary Tuesday to win a spot on the ballot to challenge former vice presidential nominee and incumbent Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine in November.

With just over one percent ahead of state delegate Nick Frietas, Stewart won the nomination with 44.8 percent of the vote — a tight race that centered more on the candidates’ attitudes and racial opinions than policy. Stewart also beat E.W. Jackson, a minister who won 12 percent in the primary race.

Stewart, who worked with President Donald Trump’s Virginia team until he was fired in October 2016, was the favorite leading up to the contest. He narrowly lost the Republican primary for Virginia governor in 2017 to Ed Gillespie, who went on to lose the general election. Stewart is best known nationally for his connections to Paul Nehlen, a self-described “pro-white” candidate in Wisconsin, and Jason Kessler, an organizer of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.

Even without his political baggage, Stewart will have a tough campaign to unseat Kaine, who had a 45 percent approval rating in a Morning Consult survey conducted in January. Theoretical head-to-head match ups between Kaine and the three Republican candidates regularly showed the former vice presidential candidate with double-digit leads.

Stewart has since disavowed connections to those men, saying he didn’t know of their radical views. Freitas complained that the Republican Party was getting dragged down by people with baggage like Stewart, and national Republicans were anxious to have Freitas win.

“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,” oppoent Freitas said on June 6. “This isn’t him getting caught in a picture with somebody. This is him proactively associating himself with these people,” Freitas said of Stewart’s connections.

Stewart has promised to run a “vicious” campaign against Kaine in his first national election.

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