In his first major speech since winning Virginia’s Republican Senate primary, Corey A. Stewart faced a friendly crowd in Washington on Sunday, promising to “end the scourge of illegal immigration” while also defending himself against charges of bigotry and racism.
Fresh from his June 12 primary victory over two opponents, including GOP-supported Del. Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper), Stewart spoke at the “Tea for Trump,” sponsored by Virginia Women for Trump at the Trump International Hotel.
The event, which included a fashion show and a brief appearance by California congressional candidate and former soap opera actor Antonio Sabato Jr., was billed as a celebration of President Trump’s June 14 birthday.
Stewart spent part of his roughly 10-minute speech setting up his platform, including bringing competition to the health-care industry and working with the president to “make our tax cuts permanent.”
The applause grew louder when he pledged to end illegal immigration in Virginia, and it reached a crescendo when he echoed Trump’s call to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We will build the wall!” Stewart said to an enthusiastic, mostly female crowd wearing elaborate hats and dress clothes.
Stewart has cleaved to the president and his policies, calling himself “more Trump than Trump” — a message that resonated with enough hard-line Republicans in Virginia to give Stewart the GOP nomination.
In a speech before Fairfax County voters earlier this month, for example, Stewart said he would “Make Fairfax Safe Again,” falsely claiming that the county had declared itself a “sanctuary city” and pledging to wipe out the MS-13 gang in the state’s most populous jurisdiction.
But Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors since 2006, also has left more moderate Republicans troubled. He has come under fire for associating with white supremacists, then distancing himself from them by saying he was not aware of how extreme their views were.
He has defended Confederate symbols, was photographed standing before the Confederate battle flag and ran unsuccessfully for governor last year on a platform he called “Confederate heritage.”
“They can’t attack me on my record, so they attack me with false allegations of racism, bigotry and anti-Semitism,” Stewart said Sunday. “Let me tell you something, folks: I completely disavow all those ideologies 100 percent.”
But he spent the bulk of his time attacking Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), whom he will face in the November general election.
“He’s been there for six years and accomplished nothing. Nothing,” Stewart said of the senator, who was presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s running mate in the 2016 election.
He repeated, among other things, earlier claims that Kaine has not “repudiated Harvey Weinstein,” referring to the Hollywood producer who is accused of decades of sexual assault and abuse and was a major donor to the Clinton-Kaine campaign.
But Kaine last year told CNN in response to a question about Weinstein, that “any leader should condemn this. . . . The allegations are lowlife behavior.” And Weinstein has not contributed to Kaine’s Senate campaign.
Stewart also referenced an incident in Lexington, Va., on Friday in which a restaurant owner asked Trump’s press secretary to leave the establishment, citing the Trump administration’s words and actions.
“That is the type of hate that Tim Kaine and his left-wing ideological friends are trying to spread, not just in Virginia but across the country,” Stewart said, as boos erupted from the audience.
Kaine spokesman Ian Sams called Stewart’s allegations “played-out lies” and noted in a tweet that the Senate hopeful chose to make his first major speech outside Virginia.
“Pretty clear this guy only cares about getting national attention and demonstrating fealty to Donald Trump,” Sams wrote.