Three Republicans Battle To Take On Tim Kaine

Jun 1, 2018

Republican primary senatorial candidate Del. Nick Freitas, gestures as E. W. Jackson, left, and Corey Stewart, right, listen during a debate at Liberty University in Lynchburg.
Credit AP Photo / Steve Helber

Republicans will be heading to the polls June 12 to select a candidate to take on Senator Tim Kaine this fall.

Noon mass brings a handful of conservative Catholic Republicans to worship service, where they pray together. After mass, though, their views on candidates drift in different directions.  I asked some of them what they are looking for in a candidate.

“Honesty is one of the biggest things I’m looking for. Honesty and integrity” Ken Balbuena of Springfield responds. He describes himself as a conservative Catholic and he will be voting in the Senate primary.

But he’s not sure yet if he’ll cast a ballot for Delegate Nick Freitas or preacher E.W. Jackson. "While I’m still researching both of them and trying to figure out is there one candidate that’s better than the other, I think in my particular instance I know that I’m voting against Corey Stewart. It’s just a matter of who do I vote for.”

Republican primary senatorial candidate Corey Stewart gestures during a debate at Liberty University in Lynchburg on April 19.
Credit (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Ever since he lost the Republican primary for governor to Ed Gillespie last year, Stewart has been waging a campaign to take on Democratic Senator Tim Kaine in November. On the campaign trail, Stewart says he’ll run a vicious campaign against Kaine. “I am running to disrupt the United States Senate in Washington, D.C.,” Stewart in a news conference.

It’s language like that that gives Balbuena pause. “We have a lot of divisiveness now on the Hill, and we need to be working together, finding our commonalities and working through our differences. Not necessarily shaking things up just because you can,” Balbuena says.

Republican primary senatorial candidate Del. Nick Freitas, gestures during a debate at Liberty University in Lynchburg on April 19.
Credit (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Nick Freitas grabbed headlines across the country earlier this year with a firebrand speech defending gun rights and taking on Democrats. “It was not our party that supported slavery, that fought women’s suffrage, that rounded up tens of thousands of Asian Americans who and put them in concentration camps, that supported Jim Crow, that supported segregation or supported massive resistance," Freitas said earlier this year. "That wasn’t our party. That was the Democrat Party.”

E.W. Jackson is a conservative preacher who grabbed headlines during his 2013 campaign for lieutenant governor. He’s called gays sexually twisted and suggested people who don’t follow Jesus are engaged in a false religion. In his 2010 book, he said that one of the dangers of meditation is that you empty yourself, Satan "is happy to invade the empty vacuum of your soul." He later clarified that he does not believe that yoga leads to Satanism. On the campaign trail, he’s appealing to a wing of the party that wants hard line on immigration.

“We have to have an absolute ban on ever making anyone a citizen who comes into our country illegally. If you come here illegally, you may never become a citizen of the United States.”

One policy area that divides the candidates is the role of federal regulators. During a debate at Liberty University, the candidates were asked how they would handle privacy violations of Facebook.

Republican primary senatorial candidates E. W. Jackson gestures during a debate at Liberty University in Lynchburg on April 19.
Credit (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Jackson quoted Ronald Reagan and pledged to keep federal regulators out of it. But Corey Stewart promised more federal involvement. "I think it is time to sick America’s antitrust investigators through the DOJ, and we should pass legislation to break up Facebook and those who are trying to dominate speech and who are trying essentially to shut down conservative speech.”

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

Republicans will have the final say about which approach they like best on June 12th.

[Editors' Note: This story was updated with additional context of EW Jackson's writing on meditation.]

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.