WASHINGTON — Long before Donald Trump was the Republican presidential candidate, Corey Stewart knew a thing or two about the power of incendiary remarks.
When Stewart, as chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, chairman of Trump’s Virginia campaign, and a contender for Virginia governor in 2017, introduces Trump at a Richmond rally Friday night, both will be scrutinized for recent controversial comments.
Trump faces criticism from some in the GOP over remarks about a U.S.-born judge of Mexican heritage presiding over a fraud case against him.
Stewart has taken some heat for a Facebook post suggesting how he would deal with over-the-top protesters. Last week, as Trump supporters were assaulted by protesters, Stewart took to the social network:
“Time to put our foot down. These hoodlums attacked Trump supporters because they don’t like our views. These Trump supporters could have been you or your family. Are we going to tolerate this? If you tolerate thuggery, you will get more of it. When I am governor, thugs like these will be apprehended and, if they are illegal, we will kick their asses out of the country, just like we did in Prince William County.”
In a WTOP interview Friday, Stewart said he doesn’t anticipate problems for the rally at the Richmond Coliseum.
“We don’t expect a lot of protesters or rioters,” said Stewart. “We think we’ve got the situation under control.”
Stewart said he is excited to bring Trump onstage, saying he is a great candidate “and he’s got so much support in the commonwealth.”
Trump has been criticized by some in the GOP over comments about U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was born in Indiana to Mexican immigrants.
Trump has said Curiel is biased toward him because of his plan to build a wall on border between the United States and Mexico.
“Look, the mainstream media, the left wing, they’re going to attack Donald Trump over and over again,” said Stewart. “We’ve got to stand behind him. That’s what I’m doing and that’s what we have to do in order to win in November.”
Stewart said he doesn’t think Trump was actually referring to Curiel’s ethnicity, but was concerned about the judge’s relationship with La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group.
“This judge has been an activist in supporting illegal immigrants and not wanting to deport illegal aliens from the United States,” said Stewart. “That’s antithetical to Trump’s position.”
In 2007, Stewart was instrumental in Prince William County adopting an illegal immigration enforcement policy that requires county police officers to check the immigration status of every person arrested.
Today, as opponents challenge Trump’s choice of words and as he readies for a battle with Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, Stewart was asked about the tenor of the current political discourse.
“I think the tone is just perfect,” said Stewart. “I think that people are looking for a straight talker, somebody who is going to speak their mind — people find that refreshing.”
Stewart, like Trump, is standing by his words, despite those who are critical.
“They know that what they see with Donald Trump is what they’re going to get,” said Stewart.