- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 1, 2011

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — So much for “mediocre.”

Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey A. Stewart, a frequent critic of former Virginia Gov. George Allen, on Tuesday made nice with the current U.S. Senate candidate by offering him his endorsement.

Mr. Stewart said in January, when Mr. Allen announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination, that “a lot of conservatives and tea party members are disappointed with George Allen,” and that Mr. Allen’s record during his previous turn in the U.S. Senate was “mediocre.”

At the time, Mr. Stewart was weighing his own potential run for the Senate seat. But the Republican, best known for his role in the county’s controversial 2007 crackdown on illegal immigrants, said Tuesday that after taking a “cold, hard, objective” view of the situation he decided that a leap from board chairman to the U.S. Senate was a bridge too far and that he wanted to back the strongest candidate.

“I’m sure George would probably say that he wished he had done things differently back then, too,” Mr. Stewart said. “I think George was a good governor. And, looking at his Senate record more critically now … all in all, I’ve got to say that I retract that statement — I think he had a very good Senate record.”

Mr. Allen, who is running against former Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, welcomed the endorsement with open arms. He lauded Mr. Stewart for his leadership on job growth in Prince William County, which recently was ranked No. 1 in job growth in Virginia in a Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

Mr. Stewart said he timed his endorsement to align with Election Day next Tuesday, when all 140 seats in the General Assembly as well as a host of local offices — including his at-large seat as chairman — are up for grabs.
“It is important that we move into that election cycle as a unified front,” Mr. Stewart said.

But Mr. Allen, who lost his bid for re-election to the Senate in 2006 in a gaffe-filled campaign that culminated with his calling a volunteer of Democrat Jim Webb, who won the seat, “macaca,” a term many perceived to be a racial slur and for which he has since repeatedly apologized.

“Once you get knocked down, you get back up,” Mr. Allen said Tuesday. “You learn from your mistakes, and we’re going to run a much more grass roots-oriented, issue advocacy, positive constructive solutions campaign.”

Mr. Webb bested Mr. Allen in Prince William County with 50.5 percent of the vote in 2006. President Obama took 57.5 percent of the vote there in 2008, and it then swung back Republican, with Gov. Bob McDonnell winning it with 58.7 percent of the vote in 2009.

Mr. Allen may have to tread carefully in the swing area, where the county’s controversial crackdown on illegal immigrants — a subject Mr. Allen steered clear of in his remarks, focusing instead on the economy and jobs — bubbles just beneath the surface.

Hispanics, a key voting bloc, make up about one-fifth of the county now, compared to one-10th in 2000, according to U.S. Census data, and the county is now majority-minority.

Delegate David L. Englin, Alexandria Democrat, said Tuesday’s reconciliation could prove tricky for Mr. Allen.

“I think anyone who accepts the endorsement of Corey Stewart would be in a difficult spot with Latino voters,” he said. “If George Allen is trying to repair his image from his last Senate run … then aligning himself with Corey Stewart is the wrong way to go about that.”

But Daniel Cortez, media coordinator for Tea Party Patriots for George Allen, rushed to his defense.

“I’ve followed him. I’ve seen him,” Mr. Cortez said of Mr. Allen. “The community is embracing him cross-culturally. He’s a leader. He’s reaching out. He’s listening. And he’s gaining consensus with the immigrant community.”

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