RICHMOND —Donald Trump’s presidential campaign on Monday announced a controversial figure will lead the celebrity billionaire’s efforts in Virginia: Corey A. Stewart.
As chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, Stewart championed one of the first government-sponsored plans to target illegal immigrants and gained a national following among hard-core conservatives.
The move dovetails with the rhetoric favored by Trump, who launched his campaign by labeling Mexicans criminals and rapists, and six months later called for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States.
Stewart said he disagrees with Trump’s stance and hopes to be a “bridge” between the brash presidential frontrunner and Muslim Americans.
“I have a very strong relationship with the Muslim community in northern Virginia,” Stewart said in a phone interview. “I’m not going to agree with every thing that Donald Trump says and this is probably one of them. I have a very good relationship — and it’s not something I will jeopardize. And I hope to be a bridge between Trump and the Muslim community.”
Stewart mingled with state GOP leaders and footsoldiers this past weekend at the party’s annual retreat and said Monday he is considering running for governor in 2017.
He unsuccessfully sought the party’s 2013 nomination for lieutenant governor and called Prince William’s illegal immigration policy a “feather in my cap” in that race.
Since the crackdown has been in place, he said the county has turned over more than 7,500 people to federal authorities and has seen a significant drop in violent crime. The measure survived a legal challenge and was the model for a similar policy in Arizona, he said.
“Our policy is focused on illegal immigrants who commit crimes,” said Stewart, who is a DC attorney focusing on international trade. “There’s not been a single case of racial profiling.”
But Harry W. Wiggins, chairman of the Prince William Democrats and a longtime critic of Stewart, called the policy “the Trump plan of 2007.”
Trump and Stewart are two “peas in a pod,” he said. “Just like Trump, he plays on people’s fear.”
The Republicans met briefly before Trump’s rally at the county fairgrounds earlier this month, and the Trump campaign praised Stewart’s “courageous stance” on immigration.
“I am proud to welcome Corey to the campaign,” Trump said in a statement. “We have a tremendous team in Virginia and with their help, I will Make America Great Again!”