RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Two contenders for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination in Virginia clashed Saturday in the first debate of the primary race. Corey Stewart, a candidate for governor last year, and state Del. Nick Freitas of Culpeper squared off in a debate before the Virginia Tea Party in Richmond. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, tried to portray Freitas as politically inexperienced. He said Democratic U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine would “chew him up and spit him out.” Freitas said Stewart has divided the Republican Party and has “some problems with the truth from time to time.”
Kaine is seeking a second term in the Senate after his 2016 loss in the presidential election as Hillary Clinton’s running mate. Stewart and Freitas are the only two candidates so far who have submitted enough signatures to qualify for the June 12 GOP primary ballot. The deadline is March 29. Freitas defeated Stewart in a straw poll of 217 people at the Tea Party’s spring conference. Freitas drew 65 percent to 35 percent for Stewart, according to Tea Party chairman Rick Buchanan.
On stage, both two candidates supported the tax cut signed by President Donald Trump last year and called for cuts in federal spending. Both called for stronger enforcement efforts against illegal immigration and both agreed with Trump’s concept of building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. Stewart said he’s not afraid of getting into the gutter to fight Democrats and can stand up to Republican leadership when needed. Freitas spoke of his 11 years in the military, including two overseas combat tours, and said he wanted to focus on the power of the individual, not the government.