- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Republican Senate debate in Virginia got personal Thursday when state Delegate Nick Freitas slammed rival Corey Stewart for what he described as an ethnically tinged attack from Mr. Stewart’s supporters that prompted a response from his daughter.

Mr. Stewart, who was trying to cast Mr. Freitas as insufficiently supportive of President Trump’s agenda, replied by saying Mr. Freitas was going to need to grow thicker skin if he has designs on defeating Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine in the fall general election.

The exchange came as Mr. Stewart, Mr. Freitas, and Bishop E.W. Jackson of Chesapeake squared off in a debate at Liberty University in Lynchburg, ahead of a June 12 primary to determine which Republican candidate will take on Mr. Kaine, who is seeking re-election.

“The reason why I called out the Corey Stewart campaign is because my daughter came over to me one day and asked, ‘Daddy, what is wrong with our last name?’” said Mr. Freitas, whose last name is Portuguese.

“And it’s because two of his field directors were putting out memes that were saying things like ‘Freitas sounds like something more on the dollar menu at Taco Bell than it does a U.S. Senate candidate,’” he said.

“I fought for my country, I am every bit as much a citizen as you are, Corey Stewart, and I don’t appreciate it when my kids have to ask me that question in this country,” he said.

Mr. Stewart, who had said Mr. Freitas was waffling on whether he supported initiatives like the U.S.-Mexico border wall, responded by saying that he pledged to run a “vicious” and “ruthless” race against Mr. Kaine in November.

“If all it takes is to make a little bit of fun of your name by some supporters out there of mine — [if] that’s all it takes to get under your skin, you got some major problems if you were ever to get this nomination,” said Mr. Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors.

“I don’t think you’re going to do it, but if you did, he’s going to eat you up [and] spit you out,” he said.

Mr. Jackson, the third GOP candidate vying for the party’s nomination, weighed in by saying: “Now folks, if we’re already arguing about ethnicity … I’m glad I’m not involved in that.”

“How in the world are we going to reach black and Hispanic voters who we’re going to need on Nov. 6 in order to win?” said Mr. Jackson, who is black.

In addition to immigration, the candidates weighed in unfavorably on last month’s $1.3 trillion federal spending bill, and all said that they support term limits for elected officials.

They also appeared to agree that special counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing connections between Russia and Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign, was essentially engaging in a “fishing expedition” — or was at least approaching a point where Mr. Trump could be having his due process rights violated.

On the administration’s recent military strikes in Syria, Mr. Stewart and Mr. Jackson said the Mr. Trump’s action was the right move, while Mr. Freitas said he would have liked for the president to come to Congress first to get authorization to do what he needed to do.

Mr. Stewart and Mr. Freitas also clashed somewhat on the issue of government regulation of Facebook, in the wake of the disclosure that the political firm Cambridge Analytica managed to sweep up the private information of million of users.

Mr. Stewart said it was time to unleash America’s anti-trust investigators through the Justice Department and pass legislation to “break up” Facebook and those who are trying to “dominate speech” and “shut down” conservative speech.

Mr. Freitas said that more government involvement isn’t the answer.

“This is one of the core fundamental differences, I think, between the way Corey and I approach problems,” he said. “I do not believe in instantly handing over power to the federal government when a private corporation or a private citizen does something that I don’t like.”

A survey released in early March gave Mr. Stewart the edge in the Republican primary contest, but showed that two-thirds of GOP voters were still undecided.

Mr. Stewart was at 16 percent support, Mr. Jackson was at 7 percent, and Mr. Freitas was at 6 percent, according to the poll from the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University.

In head-to-head match-ups, all three Republicans trailed Mr. Kaine by more than 20 points in the poll.

Mr. Kaine, the 2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee, was also governor of Virginia from 2006 to 2010 and served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2009 to 2011.

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