by Dan Roem, Gainesville Times
8 December 2011
“Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart (R) confirmed during an interview on Sunday that he will seek the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor of Virginia in 2013.
” ‘I have made no official announcement, but I didn’t exactly make a secret of it,’ said Stewart. ‘I can’t make an official declaration but, when I make my move … I have not yet decided when to announce or how to do it.’
“Stewart has not formed an exploratory committee or began fundraising yet, though he did say at one point, ‘I’m going to have my own race on my hands’ come 2013.
“He talked extensively about what message he needs to send for such a campaign and said ‘yeah’ when asked if he was, in fact, running for lieutenant governor and not some other statewide office.
“When told the headline for this story was going to be ‘Stewart running for lieutenant governor,’ he laughed and said, ‘You can read into it what you want.’
“Regardless, he said he plans to stay on as county chairman through Election Day of 2013.
” ‘I would resign if I won the seat, but I would not resign before,’ said Stewart. ‘It would probably be November or December of 2013, assuming I’m successful of course.’
“Stewart spent the weekend at the Republican Party of Virginia’s annual Advance meeting at The Homestead resort in Hot Springs. He hosted a room where he talked policy and politics with Virginia Republicans.
” ‘I had a very large suite last night. We had at least 200-300 people going in and out of there over the course of the evening. It was very successful and it’s, you know, it was a chance to meet Republicans from around the state,’ said Stewart.
“He explained that budding statewide candidates are able to meet with potential backers after the official party business for the day is done. The private events usually run for about three hours, ending around midnight according to Stewart.
” ‘It’s standard for statewide politicians or statewide candidates or potential statewide candidates to host suites, receptions, after the meeting are done,’ said Stewart, later adding, ‘It’s, to, you know, talk to Republicans around the state about the successes we’ve had in Prince William County.’
“While Stewart is well-known for championing a crackdown on illegal immigration, he said Republicans talked relatively little about that topic and more about other parts of his record.
” ‘What I found is that a lot of people from around Virginia are very well aware of Prince William County and the tremendous economic growth and the prosperity that we achieved in the county,’ he said.
” ‘And the trick for me is, you know, to broaden my notoriety to other issues aside from the illegal immigration (topic),’ he added, mentioning that he still stands on his record on the issue. ‘I need to tout the success we’ve had in Prince William and the reduction in government spending and the economic growth that we’ve achieved.
” ‘My challenge is going to be associating myself with those successes, economic successes, because what I don’t want to be known as is a one-trick pony, on cracking down on illegal immigration. I also need to associate myself with the strong economy (and) growth policies that we’ve had in prince William County as well.’
“HOME AND STATE
“Stewart touting Prince William’s growth rate comes more than five years after his initial run for county chairman when his primary issue was controlling residential growth.
“Though economic growth and residential growth are two separate topics, the growth in population is directly attributed to the growth of the economy within the county and region,
“During Stewart’s term in office, he has voted for residential growth over the objections of some residents in different parts of Prince William County.
“Among the other topics, he supported the Avendale development in Nokesville and he voted for the development of Haymarket Landing and the University of Virginia Foundation properties over objections from the Haymarket Town Council.
“However, local issues like rezonings and development within the Rural Crescent are likely going to matter little to a statewide GOP electorate.
“The county’s population boom over the last decade and, more importantly, its growing economy come at a time when many rural counties throughout the commonwealth have lost population.
“Rural counties tend to be Republican-leaning. Stewart presides over a county with 5.4 percent unemployment rate and the second largest population among counties in the commonwealth at over 400,000.
“Only one Republican, Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms, governs a locality in Virginia with a larger population than Prince William County.
“Prince William and Loudoun also happen to be the two most crucial swing counties in the state.
“And as seen in the last several elections, so goes Prince William, so goes the state.
“All of those factors give Stewart, who’s won three races for chairman and one for supervisor, leverage in the electability debate.
” ‘I would say in recent (years), over the course of the last 10 to 15 years, you cannot win statewide and lose Prince William and Loudoun counties. You cannot do it,’ said Stewart of Republicans. ‘You have got to win (them). These are two key battlefield localities. You’ve got to juice up your margins in Prince William in particular to (stem) off your losses in Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria.’
“By process of elimination, lieutenant governor is the only statewide office viable for Stewart in 2013.
“Stewart acknowledged there are already hard-line conservative candidates, much like himself, running for governor and attorney general.
” ‘Well, I’m not going to endorse anybody in the governor’s race or the attorney general’s race,’ said Stewart. ‘I’m going to have my own race on my hands.’
“Stewart expressed interest in the office during the 2009 campaign cycle and even formed an exploratory committee when Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) was rumored to be considering a run for governor.
” ‘That’s exactly right. The only reason I pulled out then was because Bolling ran for re-election,’ said Stewart.
“Meanwhile, Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) both announced last week that they would be running for governor.
“Cuccinelli, who lives with his family in Nokesville, notably irked Bolling by announcing his intent to seek higher office after previously saying that he was likely to run for re-election.
“He even said as much when interviewed by this paper in 2009 that he could see himself ultimately seeking re-election.
“Cuccinelli and Bolling are major statewide figures and are likely to wage a bitter race over the next 1.5 years for the nomination unless one of them ultimately backs down and runs for re-election.
“Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) endorsed Bolling and said he would ‘strongly’ support him for governor.
“Cuccinelli once clashed with Stewart over the necessity and legality of a proposal by Stewart, who recommended that statewide law enforcement officials should check the immigration status of everyone they arrest, like local officials do in Prince William.
” ‘As far as that’s concerned, I get along with Cuccinelli just fine. I think a lot of him. I think a lot of Bolling as well,’ said Stewart on Sunday, noting that he has had ‘differences at times with Cuccinelli.’
“Stewart is also an ally of attorney general candidate state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R), a conservative stalwart who represents Harrisonburg in the General Assembly. Obenshain announced his formation of an exploratory committee to succeed Cuccinelli after the incumbent confirmed his interest for governor.
“If Cuccinelli, Stewart and Obenshain all won in the Republican primary, that would set up a Tea Party dream ticket of sorts for 2013. Cuccinelli and Obenshain were part of the most conservative faction of the state Senate when they served in that body together. Stewart has made a career out of enraging liberals and moderates of both parties, particularly over illegal immigration.
“In late 2010 through most of 2011, Stewart even considered running as a more conservative alternative to former Sen. George Allen (R) in the U.S. Senate GOP primary. He spoke negatively about Allen’s term as a senator though he praised his work as governor.
“Then, in October, just as Stewart came under fire in the general election for chairman for having his eye on higher office instead of the county, Stewart endorsed Allen.
“Stewart went on crush the well-funded Democratic nominee, Babur Lateef, 58-27 percent on Election Day. Independent candidate John Gray claimed 14 percent of the vote.
” ‘I’ve proven three times on a countywide basis in Prince William, with increasing margins in every election, that I win here. In a statewide election, I will win Prince William County by a very large margin and that margin would help me offset any losses I would incur in Fairfax as well as Arlington and Alexandria,’ said Stewart.
” ‘I’ll probably win Loudoun and I would expect to win (the general election), even if the Republicans do not win the governorship,’ he added.”