In June 2017 Prince William Board of Supervisor Chair and former Trump Campaign Chairman in Virginia Corey Stewart, known for posing in front of the Confederate flag and promoting “heritage” across rural Virginia, was narrowly beat by former Republican National Committee chairman and lobbyist Ed Gillespie for the Republican nomination for Governor in Virginia. Since winning his Party’s nomination, Gillespie has doubled down on dog-whistle politics to lure Stewart voters.
After losing the Republican nomination for Governor, Stewart has since said “I am going to run the most vicious, ruthless campaign to dethrone Tim Kaine,” Stewart said on Facebook Live outside his Virginia home. “We’re not holding back any punches. I’m going to go after him very, very hard.” (CNN Story here.)
Former Trump advisor and current head of Breitbart Steve Bannon has frequently supported Stewart in the form of frequent “news” coverage. Just yesterday Bannon and Stewart spoke together in DC, touting that Stewart supporters are going to turn out the win for Gillespie (Breitbart). They were proud of the Republican strategy to run a fear-based campaign against illegal immigrants against Northam and vowed to do it again next year.
Stewart’s Trump-esque campaign style has filtered down to even local seats on the ballot this year, notably, the Brookland District position on the Henrico Board of Supervisor. The VA Republican Party has sent multiple, deceptive, dog-whistle political ads supporting Republican Bob Witte and attacking Democrat Courtney Lynch.
Witte denies corroboration and avows to be available to all Brookland residents, but his close affiliation to Stewart, as evidenced in Stewart’s sponsored ad earlier this year (above), suggests that Witte is uncomfortably close to white supremacist sympathizers and white nationalists who are open and proud of running fear-based, hate-mongering campaigns against minorities.
The VA GOP’s strategy to align Witte with white supremacy sympathizers has been highlighted by NBC 12 in fake news mailer scandal and the Richmond Times Dispatch in multiple articles, most notably by Michael Paul William’s article “Henrico and the region not served by deceptive, divisive politics.”
Witte has received over $30,000 in campaign contributions from himself and campaign committees connected to the Republican Party and current incumbents like John O’Bannon and Siobhan Dunnavant. Lynch, on the other hand, has raised the bulk of her funds from individual donors.
The only hope to overcome racially divisive politics is to ensure the public is aware of the strategies being used and supported by political parties and candidates. There is a modicum of hope based on the June primary results for Governor, but the question remains whether that data will translate to local elections where good ol’ boys like Bob Witte have earned tremendous community support for his service. His community service is worthy of praise, but the question remains whether his ideology is right for Henrico County and whether he will truly be a candidate for the large number of minorities in the Brookland District who need fair consideration and equitable distribution of resources.