Home NEWS Conservative Corey Stewart projected to GOP primary in Va. to take on Sen. Tim Kaine

Conservative Corey Stewart projected to GOP primary in Va. to take on Sen. Tim Kaine

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Corey Stewart, a Donald Trump-supporting immigration hardliner who campaigned on keeping Confederate monuments, narrowly won the GOP U.S. Senate primary in Virginia Tuesday night, according to an NBC News projection. He will go up against incumbent Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine this fall.

With 93 percent of Virginia precincts in, Stewart, the chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, had 44.8 percent of the vote, compared with state Delegate Nick Freitas, a former Green Beret who’d received backing from a key conservative group, with 43.1 percent.

Trailing in a distance third place was pastor E.W. Jackson with 12.1 percent.

Stewart’s victory could be a gift for Kaine in blue-leaning Virginia, where a Republican hasn’t won a statewide race since 2009. Stewart campaigned as a hardliner against illegal immigration, an ardent supporter of the Second Amendment and on the preservation of Confederate monuments. He even revived false “birther” allegations that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.

But voters in Virginia, who in 2016 picked Hillary Clinton — with whom Kaine ran as the Democratic vice presidential nominee — over Trump, and who in 2017, picked Democrat Ralph Northam over Republican Ed Gillespie in the state’s gubernatorial election, have consistently rejected conservative Republicans in statewide races in recent years.

Stewart, however, pushed that trend aside for the primary, drawing hard during the GOP primary on his pro-Trump credentials, touting himself as “Trump before Trump was Trump,” and vowing to support the president’s agenda in the Senate.

Stewart, the state chairman of Trump’s presidential campaign in Virginia before being fired for having led an unauthorized protest against the Republican National Committee in 2016, also received the endorsements of Trump-backers Jerry Falwell, Jr., the president of Liberty University, and Fox News personality Laura Ingraham.

In Virginia, voters also picked their Democratic challengers in several congressional districts, including in the state’s 10th Congressional District, where state Sen. Jennifer Wexton, the Democratic Party favorite, advanced to take on incumbent GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock, one of the most vulnerable Republicans in Congress, according to the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, just hours after a last-minute broadside from President Donald Trump, South Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Sanford trailed Katie Arrington 52.3 percent to 44.9 percent, with 44 percent of the state’s precincts reporting, according to The Associated Press.

Just hours before polls were set to close in the Palmetto State on Tuesday, Trump slammed Sanford, calling him “MIA” and making reference to the lawmaker’s much-publicized extramarital affair, while endorsing his primary opponent.

“Mark Sanford has been very unhelpful to me in my campaign to MAGA. He is MIA and nothing but trouble,” Trump tweeted.

“He is better off in Argentina,” Trump added, alluding to Sanford’s scandalous affair with with an Argentinian journalist, which burst into the headlines in 2009.

Trump added that he was endorsing Arrington, a GOP state representative, in her challenge of Sanford for his South Carolina’s first Congressional District seat.

“She is tough on crime and will continue our fight to lower taxes. VOTE Katie!” the president tweeted while en route back to the White House from his Singapore nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The tweets came nine hours after polls had opened in the Palmetto State, and less than three hours before they were slated to close at 7:00 pm. ET.

Prominent Republican members of Congress, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., came to Sanford’s defense after Trump’s attack on him.

A source on Ryan’s political team told NBC News that the Speaker, in keeping with his policy of supporting all GOP incumbents for re-election, backs Sanford.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said Sanford “has been a valued member of the Freedom Caucus and certainly has been a thoughtful member of Congress.”

“I am very supportive of his re-election efforts and passage of the tax reform package would not have been possible without his input,” Meadows said.

Image: Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, with his fiancee Maria Belen Chapur at his side
Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, with his fiancee Maria Belen Chapur at his side, addresses supporters in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina on April 2, 2013.Bruce Smith / AP file

Sanford’s race is one of several primary elections in states across the U.S. Tuesday night.

Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina, faced national ridicule when he claimed to be “hiking the Appalachian Trail” after vanishing for days from public view in the state. It turned out he had secretly gone to Argentina during that time to carry on an extramarital affair with Argentinian journalist María Belén Chapur. Sanford divorced his wife.

Sanford finished out his term as governor in 2011 and returned to politics less than two years later, winning a special election for Congress.

Arrington, in a series, of campaign ads, hasn’t been shy about reminding voters of the scandal that nearly toppled Sanford’s career.

“Mark Sanford and the career politicians cheated on us,” she says in one recent ad. “Bless his heart, but it’s time for Mark Sanford to take a hike. For real this time.”

She has also run an ads highlighting Sanford’s criticisms of Trump and saying she’ll “work with President Trump, not against him.”

Sanford has called the president’s steel and aluminum tariffs “an experiment with stupidity,” and he has suggested that Trump’s rhetoric has been divisive and bad for the country. Sanford also hit Trump’s insults of Haiti and African nations “stupid” and has said Trump has done “weird stuff” as president.

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