Time to Dethrone the Demagogue of Prince William County

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    Every election season, there are some races that are like eating your peas – you do them as a duty, going through the motions. And then there are the races you feel in your bones – the ones you think about day and night, because you know the outcome really matters.

    This election season, if you do nothing else, then at least work to defeat Prince William County Board Chair Corey Stewart. Stewart has many strikes against him, but the proverbial last straw for me came in a recent article in the WaPo Local Living section about Washington area governments’ greening efforts. Most local officials bragged for the article about what they were doing to make their buildings, vehicles and infrastructure more sustainable. And then there’s Corey.

    But not all local officials share the same commitment to green and sustainable living.

    “I’m totally focused on the nuts and bolts of local government — building schools, building parks, improving the quality of life — and not on some scientifically challenged political philosophy that . . . invests tactical resources in global warming concerns,” said Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large), chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. “It just is not, for me, the priority that should be the focus of local government.”

    How gratuitous and spiteful can an elected official be? Asked about a topic that most people consider innocuous at worst, essential at best, Corey takes the opportunity to peddle conspiracy theories that the vast majority of the world’s climate scientists are “scientifically challenged”? To quote another intellectually-challenged Republican, Corey – “You’re fired!”  

    Stewart became nationally infamous for his War on Latinos, as brilliantly documented by Annabel Park and Eric Byler in their documentary, 9500 Liberty. The anti-immigrant policy that he not only championed, but viciously demagogued, has led to a noticeable exodus of Latino residents from Prince William County. It also caused major tension among racial and ethnic groups in the county, at great expense, with poor results. Re: the costs of Corey’s anti-immigrant ordinances, according to a new Center for American Progress study:

    About $1.3 million was required to start up the police department’s illegal immigration enforcement initiative, plus ongoing annual costs now ranging between $700,000 and $750,000,” said Tom Pulaski, Prince William County’s planning and budget director. He said these expenses include funding of the criminal alien unit, which includes six officers and one civilian, as well as training for the police force.

    Talk about big government – tax hikes to pay for the new police state, anyone? But a report commissioned by the County itself found that these funds are being wasted because the policy has not worked. Again quoting the CAP report:

    An interim report released in 2009 found the law initially had high costs for the police department and occupied large amounts of county staff time. Yet, only 2.2 percent of people arrested in Prince William in 2009 were illegal immigrants, and most of those committed misdemeanor crimes and traffic violations, the study found.

    In its final report in November 2010, the researchers analyzed U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Labor statistics and found that the policy achieved its top goal of reducing the number of undocumented immigrants in the county because many moved to neighboring counties, though the sluggish economy also was a factor. The policy did not result in an overall reduction in crime or a countywide lessening of neighborhood problems.

    Furthermore, the policy created “a serious ethnic gap” in how police and county government were viewed and in the perception of the county as a place to live.

    But political showmen like Stewart are not interested in effective policies that bring the community together to solve problems. They’re interested in stirring up strong feelings and polarizing the community in order to win elections – in the ugliest way.

    At heart, Stewart is like any demagogue, finding an issue to latch onto in order to inflame the masses to support him. As Eric Byler told the Richmond Times Dispatch, "I think he feels most at home in a big angry circus, and he knows immigration will create that."

    But his shamelessness in choosing such a divisive issue, one that brings out the absolute worst in people, shows that he is a dangerous man to have in elected office. If he chose immigrants to harass last time, who will be the next scapegoat Corey will sacrifice for his political ambitions?

    And make no mistake, if he wins re-election this year, he will use it as a stepping stone to higher office. He has made no secret of the fact that he is considering challenging George Allen in the 2010 US Senate race. The best chance to stop Corey Stewart from becoming America’s Ethnic Cleansing Czar is here and now.

    The good news is that his Democratic challenger, Dr. Babur Lateef, is off to a flying start, raising nearly as much in the last quarter as Stewart.

    But he needs your help to stop this demagogue. Sign up today at Dr. Lateef’s website to write the end of the story for Corey.