It’s not quite official now, but pretty close: Corey Stewart is running for Lieutenant Governor. That comes as little surprise. This race will definitely change the political dynamic not only in Virginia, but Prince William County as well if he is successful, as he’s served at the top of Prince William County politics since 2006 and his departure would mean a lot of changes for us are in store.
In this race Stewart will likely face off against Keith Fimian, a Fairfax native who ran against Connolly twice, and Jeff McWaters, founder of the AmericGroup health care company and resident of Virginia Beach. Stewart and Fimian share the same Northern Virginia base of support, while McWaters will have a chance to build a base of support in Hampton Roads without local competition. All three are strong fundraisers, with McWaters able to self-fund his campaign more than the other two, but Stewart is the only one with elected experience and a record, and a pretty good one at that, as well as broader name ID across the Commonwealth. It should be interesting to see how this plays out.
If Corey Stewart wins, that’s going to open up an opportunity to re-arrange the political structure in Prince William County and provide an opportunity for John Stirrup to jump back into elected office after losing his state senate bid, which would make a lot of conservative activists very happy. What has pained conservative activists on the western end of Prince William County most is not that John Stirrup lost his primary bid, but that he won’t be in elected office on the Board of Supervisors or elsewhere where he can execute on his philosophy of small government, the rule of law, and conserving the rural character of the rural crescent. An opportunity for him to run as Chairman in a special election to replace Corey Stewart is a gift to these folks, and they’re going to work hard for that.
There’s little chance Stirrup will have a clear shot in such a circumstance though. Marty Nohe has been clearly ambitious for years, but managed to get outmaneuvered and frozen in some confusion when Stewart ran to replace Sean Connaughton in ‘06, and this is pretty much his last opportunity to go for higher office unless he wants to be Coles Supervisor for the rest of his life. Caddigan and Covington are possibilities as well, although not highly likely ones. None of them are likely to be able to quickly build a county-wide army of supporters like Stirrup would, but the non-conservative elements of the Board have chafed a bit under the conservative leadership of Stewart and Stirrup and might be motivated to take a shot at returning to something similar to the Connaughton days, just with a new face on it. Back in ‘06 there was the “anybody but Corey” crowd lead by Nohe that was fortunately outmaneuvered, outwitted and outplayed. They may try to come back, a little wiser after their debacle last time, but essentially with the same philosophy and intent.
Democrats will likely make a strong effort here as well, perhaps with someone better than the horrid candidates they’ve been running against Corey Stewart these past few cycles. Their problem here is that their “bench” of potential is vanishingly weak and effectively devoid of qualified experience and they haven’t been able to make up that gap with money. The only incumbent they could really run would be Frank Principi or perhaps Luke Torian, either of whom would be demolished on the western end of the county and likely not even run that strong elsewhere. As a result Democrats will have little choice but to run a political neophyte as their nominee for the chairmanship of one of the largest localities in the state, and their record of doing so is abysmal.
For all this local re-arranging of the political structure to start happening Corey Stewart would have to win in his LG bid, and his chances at this point of receiving the nomination and winning in a general election seem pretty solid. If Stewart runs strongly on his record of limited government, success in fostering economic recovery and combating illegal immigration he will be a formidable state-wide candidate with a unique story to tell voters that they will respond to. Being first out of the gate helps, being the only candidate with a record to run on is a solid plus, and being a Northern Virginia based conservative is a proven winner in state-wide elections.
But it will be a long, hard road to Richmond in this race and anything can happen, especially since the political climate in 2013 is awfully hard to predict at this point. With Fimian competing for support within Stewart’s base and McWaters potentially having an open field to run in with all his personal money in tidewater a primary is going to be a tough battle. If Stewart survives the primary challenge, he likely will have an edge over a Democrat in a state-wide election as their state-wide candidate recruitment is only a little bit better than what the PWCDC has been doing in the county, and Democrats running state-wide haven’t been doing well lately.
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