Prince William County’s Corey A. Stewart became the first person Wednesday to officially enter the 2013 lieutenant governor’s race in Virginia.
Stewart, the Republican chairman of the Board of County supervisors, told a couple dozen supporters and reporters that what has worked in Prince William can work statewide. He said he promised to focus on economic development and transportation funding if elected.
“The one thing [Virginia] needs to do right is to build adequate public infrastructure,” Stewart said. “That means roads. It is the number one need for the Commonwealth.”
He said by streamlining business regulation and the size of government those funding dollars could be realized without tax increases.
Stewart said he is proud of leading efforts to streamline Prince William’s government with about $143 million in cuts since his first election in 2003, keep real-estate taxes low, and lead “the most successful crackdown on illegal immigration in the United States.”
Stewart said the county’s 2007 policy to check the immigration status of those arrested, which he helped spearhead, has lead to the prosecution of 4,500 illegal immigrants.
The county’s violent crime rate has dropped more than 50 percent over five years since the policy was enacted, Stewart said. Some disagree about whether it was the illegal immigration crackdown that has lead to the county’s reduction in violent crimes.
In an e-mail response to the announcement, Harry W. Wiggins, chair of the Prince William County Democratic Committee, said Stewart has not focused on Prince William enough in recent years. Stewart has considered running for lieutenant governor before, as well as considered a U.S. Senate bid in recent years.
“Neglecting his official duties to campaign for higher office is more of the same for Stewart,” Wiggins said in the statement.
The lieutenant governor’s position is receiving more scrutiny this year because of the 20-20 split between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. The party that controls the lieutenant governor’s position will control the Senate and have the ability to break tie votes on non-budget matters.
Democrat Aneesh Chopra, the former White House chief technology officer, is widely expected to run for the position. Pete Snyder, chairman of the state GOP’s VA Victory 2012, the Republicans’ coordinated campaign, also is reportedly considering a bid.
The kickoff event was held in front of an active construction site at Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center, a Woodbridge development anchored by a Wegman’s grocery with luxury residences and office space on the way. The development is a popular one because it brings high-end amenities to the older, eastern side of Prince William.
Stewart was first elected in 2003 on what many saw as an anti-development platform, but his position on development has changed in recent years.
Patrick MacAuley, a Stewart supporter at the event who said he promoted “smart growth” policies, said afterward that while Stewart’s record has been controversial with some, the chairman has, for the most part, promoted smart development during his tenure.
“Not every vote has gone our way,” MacAuley said. The Stonebridge development revitalized the county’s eastern end instead of cutting into rural land on the western end of Prince William, he said.
“This is a perfect example,” he said of Stonebridge’s design.
Several local Republicans came to the event to support Stewart. Del. Jackson Miller (Prince William) and L. Mark Dudenhefer (Prince William-Stafford) were there along with Supervisor Maureen Caddigan (Potomac), who introduced Stewart, and fellow board members W.S. “Wally” Covington III (Brentsville), Martin E. “Marty” Nohe (Coles) and Prince William Sherriff Glendell “Glen” Hill (R).