WASHINGTON — Prince William County Board Chair Corey Stewart, an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump, has won the Virginia GOP primary in the U.S. Senate race in a narrow victory over Virginia Del. Nick Freitas.
The hard-right firebrand now faces Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, the Democrats’ 2016 vice presidential nominee and former Virginia governor, who is seeking a second term. Stewart has vowed to run a “vicious” campaign.
Speaking to a jubilant crowd in Woodbridge, Virginia, Tuesday night, Stewart talked up Trump’s immigration and economic policies and thanked his supporters.
“I always knew that we were going to win because you were all there with me,” Stewart said.
Early Wednesday, Trump congratulated Stewart.
Congratulations to Corey Stewart for his great victory for Senator from Virginia. Now he runs against a total stiff, Tim Kaine, who is weak on crime and borders, and wants to raise your taxes through the roof. Don’t underestimate Corey, a major chance of winning!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2018
Freitas Tuesday night conceded the race in a speech to his supporters gathered in Warrenton, Virginia, and pledged to support Stewart in the general election.
“I want to go out there and support our ticket and that’s what I’m going to do,” Freitas told reporters. “That’s what I’ve always said I will do, and I’ll stand by that.”
The race between Stewart and Freitas remained close throughout the night as ballots were counted. The unofficial results listed on the Virginia Department of Elections website reported Stewart took 44.78 percent of the vote compared to 43.15 percent for Freitas.
Conservative minister E.W. Jackson, of Chesapeake, garnered about 12 percent of the vote.
Stewart was propelled to victory in part thanks to a strong showing in Northern Virginia. He won nearly 50 percent of the vote in both Fairfax and Loudoun counties. In Prince William County, where he holds local office, Stewart won nearly 57 percent of the vote.
“I never thought I would thank Fairfax County, but it was Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties that put me over the top,” Stewart said at his election night victory party.
Long considered a bellwether swing state, Virginia has become more reliably Democratic in statewide contests. Hillary Clinton carried the state in 2016, and Gov. Ralph Northam defeated Republican Ed Gillespie last fall by 9 percentage points.
Stewart, never one to mince words, offered his game plan for beating Kaine.
“We’re going to kick the crap out of Tim Kaine, that’s the strategy,” he told supporters.
In a statement released Tuesday night, Kaine campaign communications director Ian Sams called Stewart a “cruder imitation of Donald Trump who stokes white supremacy.”
Trump cast a big shadow over a primary campaign that turned viciously personal at times between the two leading Republicans in the race.
Stewart, an early Trump supporter, pledged to be “the biggest supporter of President Trump in the United States Senate” and criticized Freitas for being insufficiently supportive of the president.
He called Freitas “Never Trump Nick” in a radio ad released last week.
Freitas, who served two terms in Virginia’s House of Delegates, was seen as more of an establishment Republican with a noted libertarian streak.
In an email to supporters last week, Freitas blasted Stewart for what he called lapses in judgment and for engaging in the “dog-whistling of White supremacists, anti-Semites, and racists.”
Stewart has courted controversy throughout his political career and within his own party.
Stewart narrowly lost the Republican nomination for governor in 2017 to Ed Gillespie, in a campaign in which Stewart campaigned heavily on preserving Virginia’s Confederate monuments.
WTOP’s Kyle Cooper, Dick Uliano and The Associated Press contributed to this report.