The Washington Post reported Stewart, 50, is leaving politics “for the foreseeable future,” saying the job of overseeing Virginia’s second-most populous county in particular “just isn’t exciting for me anymore.”
This move is significant given Stewart’s relatively recent high-profile role in the state’s Republican Party. At one point during the 2016 election, he was the Virginia chairman of the Trump campaign.
Since losing his Senate race during the 2018 midterm elections, Stewart said he will stay away from politics in the state “until and unless the Commonwealth is ready for my views on things, and that’s not right now, clearly.”
It was Stewart’s views on cultural issues — specifically those related to his desire to protect the state’s Confederate monuments — that put him in the national spotlight. His popularity with the far right and with conservatives uncomfortable with the state’s liberalization trend almost helped him capture the governor’s seat in 2017.
The Post reported:
Stewart was saddled by controversies over having associated with right-wing extremists such as Paul Nehlen and Jason Kessler, who supported his calls to preserve Confederate monuments. Stewart said he cut those ties after learning about the racist beliefs each man harbored.But their interactions, plus racist social media posts from Stewart advisers during the Senate campaign, led to charges that Stewart harbors white supremacist views, which he emphatically denies.
Stewart’s political exit has some suggesting that there is no room for worldviews largely considered racist and xenophobic in the state that once housed the capital of the Confederacy.
Lisa Woolfork, an English professor at the University of Virginia, told The Fix that Stewart’s announcement should not be misinterpreted. After all, 63 percent of white men and 49 percent of white women voted for him when he ran for governor.
Woolfork, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Charlottesville, also said Stewart’s politics still seem prevalent in how state leaders are responding to the Confederate monument issue. “Stewart’s racism and aggressive neo-Confederate views are tangibly present here in Charlottesville,” she said.
“The Virginia state legislature refuses to advance a bill that would allow Charlottesville to remove these racist statues and heal from the trauma they caused in our community," she added. “The combination of legislative apathy and aggressive litigation suggest that Cory Stewart’s racism is alive and well in Charlottesville and the state of Virginia.”
Democrats have scored some big victories in Virginia in the last few elections — Barack Obama won the state twice, and Hillary Clinton won in 2016. It may not be solidly blue yet. But Stewart’s recent departure makes clear that Virginians may not be as interested in the far-right politics as it once seemed.