RICHMOND — Corey Stewart said he might challenge Sen. Tim Kaine in 2018 on Wednesday, one day after he nearly won the GOP primary for Virginia governor in a surprisingly strong showing.
“Kaine is vulnerable,” said Stewart, who on Tuesday finished a little over 1 percent behind former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie.
The Prince William County chairman ran a provocative, Donald Trump-style campaign that focused on the preservation of Virginia’s Confederate monuments. He also took a hard line on criminal illegal immigrants, promising to “lock them up.”
Most public polls had shown Stewart trailing Gillespie by double digits. And when his bid attracted support from white nationalists, many political observers predicted that his political career in one of Virginia’s most racially diverse corners was over. But Stewart pulled out a closer-than-expected finish.
Stewart said he would take “a few weeks, a couple months maybe” to decide whether to challenge to Kaine, a former Virginia governor who was Hillary Clinton’s running mate in the 2016 presidential race and is up for re-election next year.
“I’ve got to take a breather and take stock,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post. “If I announced I was running for another office right now, it would be a headline in The Washington Post: ‘Stewart clobbered by Confederate wife.’”
Stewart acknowledged his primary loss in the interview — something he did not do on election night, when he suggested there might be a recount.
As of late Wednesday afternoon, he had not formally conceded to Gillespie, whom he ridiculed as “Establishment Ed” for months. But staff for both Republicans were working on a setting up a meeting between the two to discuss a potential endorsement, Stewart said.
“We’re gonna try to have a conversation,” Stewart said. “I know he wants my endorsement, my support. I’m voting for the Republican ticket. There’s no question about that. The real question is, will he support my supporters. Unless he stands up and takes clear positions on defending our heritage and our history, supporting the president, cracking down on illegal immigration, those who supported me are not going to go with him.”
He added, “This isn’t old-style politics anymore. I just can’t tell 155,000 folks to go ahead and vote for Ed despite the fact that he’s not a fighter.”
Stewart said he was looking forward to taking a trip to visit family in his native Minnesota.
“I’m ready for a vacation,” he said, adding, as a joke, “I’m going to tour Confederate sites in Minnesota. ... I’m also going to lose some weight. I got fat on the campaign trail. When you’re on the campaign trail, you eat very unhealthy. You eat burgers and fries and you just gain weight. My suits don’t even fit anymore.”