RICHMOND — For a minute there, it looked like Corey Stewart’s bid for Virginia governor had morphed him from Confederate flag-waver to fully costumed Confederate reenactor.
He turned up at the Old South Ball in Danville during the weekend, sporting a bow tie and dark bolero jacket bedecked with lots of shiny buttons. In a video he posted online, the former chairman of President Trump’s Virginia campaign looked right at home with all of the women in hoop skirts and men in Civil War-era uniforms.
Stewart has made preservation of Virginia’s Civil War memorials a cornerstone of his primary race against political strategist Ed Gillespie and state Sen. Frank Wagner (Virginia Beach). At the ball, he made yet another rousing pitch for doing just that.
“Over my dead body when I’m governor of Virginia are we ever going to take down the statue of Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson or any hero of the commonwealth of Virginia,” he roared in a dance hall plastered with the Stars and Bars. He put in a good word for the flag, too.
“I’m proud to be next to the Confederate flag,” said Stewart, a Minnesota native and chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. “That flag is not about racism, folks. It’s not about hatred. It’s not about slavery. It’s about our heritage. … It’s time that we stop running away from our heritage. It’s time that we embrace it.”
So is it also time to dress up like Virginia is still the capital of the Confederacy? Apparently so for anyone attending the ball, an annual event that raises money for wounded veterans but has drawn criticism for glorifying the days of slavery.
Stewart did not actually have requisite attire on hand. He had to make do with something in his closet.
“That’s my kilt jacket,” Stewart explained in an interview Tuesday. “It’s called the Prince Charlie. It’s the best I could do on short notice. They told me, ‘Wear a tuxedo.’ So that’s my tuxedo top.”
In a nod to his Scottish ancestry, Stewart normally sports the jacket with a kilt at black-tie events. This time, he paired it with pants. And when he does wear the kilt, Stewart is not a stickler for tradition.
“I don’t wear it properly. I guess tradition is, you’re not supposed to wear anything under it,” he said. “But I definitely do. Don’t worry about that.”