In announcing he will seek the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate from Virginia, outspoken preacher E.W. Jackson said Monday that his chief Republican rival, Corey Stewart, is a tax-and-spend politician who doesn't understand the threat the country faces from Sharia law and radical Islam.
Jackson joins Stewart and a state lawmaker, Del. Nicholas J. "Nick" Freitas (Culpeper), in the Republican contest for the chance to challenge Sen. Tim Kaine (D), who is seeking reelection to a second term in 2018.
Out of the gate, Jackson attempted to out-insult the provocative Stewart, saying he "has had some dealings" with the Muslim Brotherhood, a transnational Islamic group, and "has never seen a tax increase . . . he didn't like."
Jackson did not elaborate but may have been referring to decisions earlier this year by the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, which Stewart chairs, to issue a permit for the construction of a mosque in Nokesville and to raise property taxes.
He made the comments on the syndicated John Fredericks radio show before holding a news conference in Chesapeake.
Reached in Alabama, where he was campaigning for U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, Stewart offered a terse response to Jackson's claims. "E.W. knows I'm a Catholic," Stewart said through a spokesman. "It's over the top. He must be off his meds."
Stewart, who fashions himself after President Trump, recorded a Facebook live segment from Eufaula, Ala., where he admired the town's Confederate statue. He will be competing with Jackson for support from conservative evangelical voters. Last week, Stewart got the endorsement of Jerry Falwell Jr., the influential president of Liberty University.
Asked about that endorsement during the radio interview, Jackson said Falwell told him that he regretted not supporting Stewart in the Republican gubernatorial primary that he lost to Ed Gillespie earlier this year.
Falwell wanted to make it up to Stewart in the Senate race, Jackson said.
"It's not to say that he does not like or would not support E.W. Jackson, it's just that Corey got there first," Jackson said, adding he plans to speak at Liberty.
"My friend Corey is a perennial candidate," Jackson said. "He just runs for everything that moves."
The barbs come after state Republicans spent the weekend at their annual retreat discussing ways to rebound from the disastrous election results last month. Jackson had planned to attend but tweeted that bad weather prevented his travel.
Jackson dismissed Kaine — a popular former governor and mayor who helped deliver Virginia for Democrat Hillary Clinton last year as her running mate — as "little Timmy Kaine" and "not a person of gravity."
Jackson, the GOP's 2013 nominee for lieutenant governor, has a history of making discriminatory comments, such as when he suggested people who want to be referred to with gender-neutral pronouns are possessed by demons and said gay people "are very sick people psychologically and mentally and emotionally."
Democrats said the campaigns of Freitas, Jackson and Stewart show that an extreme ideology has taken over the state GOP.
"Jackson is notorious for his offensive, disgusting views," Virginia Democratic Party Chairwoman Susan Swecker said in a statement. "Simply put, we can't trust someone with this twisted worldview to fight for all Virginians in the Senate.
In the radio interview, Jackson said the winner of the GOP primary will need to turn out an unprecedented number of evangelical voters and promised to visit churches throughout the state.
Jackson, who is African American, also said he will court the black vote.
Jackson ran unsuccessfully in the GOP primary for Senate in 2012 but the following year, he won the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor in a convention. He lost that race in the general election by 10 points to Democrat Ralph Northam, who was elected governor last month.
On policy differences, Jackson called himself a fiscal hawk, while "Corey has never seen a tax or an increase in spending in Prince William County that he hasn't liked." He said they also differ over the threat of "radical Islam and sharia law."
"My understanding is that Corey has had some dealings with some of the members of the Muslim Brotherhood," Jackson said. "If that proves to be the case, then we're going to clearly draw that distinction."
Fredericks, the radio host, noted Stewart has said blocking the mosque would have opened the county to litigation.
Jackson also took a jab at Freitas, suggesting he is the establishment candidate and had met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) — something Freitas denies. Freitas said the only senators advising him are conservative favorites Rand Paul (Ky.) and Mike Lee (Utah).
Ivan Raiklin, an Army veteran, has also filed the paperwork to run in the GOP primary for Senate, which is scheduled for June 2018.