With just six days before GOP primary voters go to the polls, Senate candidate Nick Freitas unloaded a broadside against rival Corey Stewart, saying Stewart had made lapses in judgment over his associates that disqualify him from holding high office.
Freitas, in an email to supporters, called out Stewart’s January 2017 praise for a far-right Wisconsin politician and Stewart’s past association with a controversial Virginia figure who organized the “Unite the Right” rally in defense of the Robert E. Lee monument in Charlottesville.
Freitas said the GOP was founded on the idea of ending slavery and fought Jim Crow laws. “If we are to continue our party’s legacy, we must reject Corey Stewart’s dog-whistling of White supremacists, anti-Semites, and racists,” Freitas wrote.
The race had thus far been sleepy, and Freitas generally has avoided attacking Stewart, who has more name recognition because of a run for governor last year. That changed Wednesday.
“Corey Stewart has repeatedly made serious lapses in judgment with the people he associates with politically,” Freitas wrote in the email. “This pattern of behavior is especially disqualifying for a candidate seeking higher office.
“It is well past time we defeat the hate mongers and say this is enough.”
Freitas, a state lawmaker from Culpeper; Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors; and E.W. Jackson, a minister from Chesapeake are on the ballot June 12 for the chance to take on Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.
Stewart responded in a statement: “It’s sad to see establishment Republicans using Leftist tactics of CNN — labeling rule-of-law conservatives racists and bigots — to advance the very same open-border, pro-amnesty agenda the left wants here in Virginia.”
Stewart intentionally says controversial things that generate attention in the media. He nearly defeated Ed Gillespie last year in the GOP primary race for governor following a stream of attacks on Gillespie as an establishment has-been and creature of Washington.
But in the fundraising email, Freitas, a former Green Beret, unloads, saying that before he faces Kaine, it’s his duty to “call out and defeat those who promote the shredding of our shared American values.”
Freitas singled out:
- In January 2017, Stewart recorded a video with Paul Nehlen, a right-wing politician in Wisconsin who lost badly in a 2016 GOP primary to House Speaker Paul Ryan. Stewart said Nehlen was “one of my personal heroes.”
“Paul Nehlen is an avowed Holocaust denier, anti-Semite, and vicious racist,” Freitas wrote.
- Stewart in February 2017, as a candidate for governor, appeared at an anti-immigration event in Charlottesville with Jason Kessler, who later coordinated a rally with torches in May at the statue of Robert E. Lee and in August coordinated the “Unite the Right” rally that was premised on protecting the Lee statue and turned deadly.
After the May torch rally, a defiant Stewart held a Facebook Live event but did not directly mention Kessler or the people who coordinated it, instead denouncing Wes Bellamy, a black member of the Charlottesville City Council who in the past had posted anti-white tweets.
“Corey Stewart raised Jason’s profile, shared his platform with him, and after the torch rally, refused to denounce his activities,” Freitas wrote. “Even after the ‘Unite the Right’ Rally, Corey Stewart refused to say a word about his former campaign compatriot.”
The Freitas campaign issued a news release Wednesday saying he would be holding a news conference in Richmond on Thursday, but issued a second release saying it had been canceled.
Stewart has, at times, denounced the violence from the August Charlottesville rally, condemning “both sides.”
“You have the president of the United States, who’s saying, ‘No, look, Neo-Nazis and KKK, they have nothing to do with the Republican Party, they’re absolutely wrong and of course we condemn them,’” Stewart said in a CNN interview in August. “You’ve got to condemn both sides. Violence is always wrong.”
Freitas has had his own controversy over his associations.
Mark Kevin Lloyd, a top campaign aide to Freitas, made controversial comments about women on social media as recently as December, calling them the B-word. Lloyd in 2016 made social media posts calling Islam a “barbaric cult.”
Speaking to reporters in Richmond last week, Stewart said he felt confident in his chances Tuesday. “People want a fighter,” he said. “They’re looking for somebody who will support the president ... even when it’s controversial.”
Of Freitas, he said: “He’s got a lot of the establishment behind him. And, you know, he’s a young guy. He hasn’t been in politics very long. I have a lot of respect for him. I don’t think this is going to be his year. I think I’m going to win this nomination. But I look forward to working with him in the future.”
Freitas hasn’t raised enough money for TV ads; however, a PAC that supports Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is spending $225,000 on TV ads to support Freitas, according to a Federal Election Commission filing. And the conservative organization Americans For Prosperity is spending over $137,000 in digital ads and phone banking to support Freitas.