KEY POINT: "Rep. Scott Taylor is noncommittal about campaigning with Corey Stewart. The Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity has said it will not contribute any money to [Stewart's] campaign. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the group working to elect more Republicans to the Senate, has no plans to back Stewart."
The News & Advance Editorial Board
If you’re a top official of the Republican Party in Virginia, you know you’ve got a problem on your hands when one of your rising political stars in the House of Representatives takes to the airwaves and demolishes the candidate at the top of the ticket less than four months before the crucial congressional midterm elections.
That’s exactly what Rep. Scott Taylor of Virginia Beach, who represents the Second Congressional District, did last week when he appeared on the John Fredericks Show, the most-listened-to conservative talk radio show in the state.
Fredericks asked Taylor, a freshman representative seeking his second term in Congress, what he thought of Corey Stewart’s chances of knocking off Democratic U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine in November. Taylor, a former U.S. Navy SEAL, was blunt: “Clearly there are some things that I don’t agree with him on and, in terms of how he campaigns, there’s no way in hell you’re going to be able to put forth a winning campaign without a different message. ... Zero shot in the way the campaign was run in the primary to win the general.”
To say Stewart is controversial is an understatement. The chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, Stewart has long advocated stringent immigration policies — he’s not just against illegal immigration and rounding up undocumented immigrants, but he’s skeptical of immigration in general.
In 2017, when he sought the GOP gubernatorial nomination and almost defeated Ed Gillespie, the eventual nominee, in the party’s June primary, he wrapped himself in the flag — the Confederate flag — and embraced the issue of Confederate monuments. A red-hot topic in Charlottesville, white supremacists from across the nation staged the “Unite the Right” rally on Aug. 12, ostensibly in support of that city’s monuments to Gens. Robert E. Lee and “Stonewall” Jackson that the local government had targeted for removal. Stewart publicly allied himself with one of the top leaders of the Unite the Right, Jason Kessler, even appearing with him at pro-monument events in Charlottesville in early 2017.
Stewart also was an early backer of Paul Nehlen, who’s running for the congressional seat being vacated by House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Nehlen, by the way, has shared anti-Semitic posts and memes on social media, railed against the “Jewish media” and kept a list of his Jewish “enemies” on Twitter. Stewart has since disavowed his support of Nehlen, but Nehlen’s stands have been well known since 2016.
Traditional Republican conservatives have not yet warmed to Stewart. Rep. Taylor is noncommittal about campaigning with him. The Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity has said it will not contribute any money to his campaign. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the group working to elect more Republicans to the Senate, has no plans to back Stewart.
Taylor, in the Fredericks show interview last week, had some advice for Stewart that, frankly, he should take: “[T]alk about, you know, kitchen table things, not Confederate statues. ... [T]he reality is what do you think the average person cares about more his job or that? So adjust your message. Get it right to be able to exploit the vulnerabilities where Tim Kaine is weak. Very weak frankly.”
Will Stewart heed his party’s advice? Your guess is as good as anyone’s at this point in time.