Republican front-runner Donald Trump has picked Prince William County Board of Supervisors chairman Corey Stewart to chair his Virginia presidential campaign.
The well known and sometimes divisive county official told AMI Newswire he came to believe in the billionaire investor's presidential timber when he attended Trump's Dec. 2 rally at the Prince William County Fairgrounds.
"I had not seen that level of excitement since Ronald Reagan," said Stewart, whom some Republicans consider a potential 2017 candidate for governor. "There was tremendous diversity in the crowd. A lot of young people were there, the kinds of people the party establishment has been trying, and failing, to get excited about our candidates since Reagan was in office."
Stewart is no stranger to political events or controversy. He was elected to the board of fast-growing Prince William County in 2003. He became chairman of the Board of Supervisors in 2007, and turned his attention to county policies regarding illegal immigration.
The result was a county-wide crackdown on illegals suspected of criminal activity. According to his campaign website, Stewart says: "Prince William County law enforcement officers turned over more than 7,500 criminal illegal aliens to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency."
Riding the wave of notoriety this effort brought him in Virginia and nationwide, Stewart in 2012 became the first Republican to announce his candidacy for lieutenant governor. He led the polls through much of the campaign but finished third at the 2013 convention.
Asked what he and others see in Trump's candidacy, Stewart told AMI Newswire: "I think it's because he's a straight talker. People respect that. They want an honest conversation from politicians."
Billionaire casino entrepreneur Trump's choice of Stewart had been rumored among Republicans gathered for the party's annual meeting this weekend at the stately Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia. The Trump campaign made it official in a press release Monday.
By the time Super Tuesday - when voters in Virginia and 11 other states choose presidential candidates - rolls around March 1, the field may have narrowed to four or five candidates, University of Richmond political science professor Dan Palazzolo told AMI Newswire.
Stewart plans to make Trump's messages ring more strongly as the GOP pack gets smaller.
"It gives him a better shot at reaching voters. It will prove he has broader appeal than people give him credit for," Stewart said. "If the size of the crowds attending [Trump's] events is any indication, he's comparable to Barack Obama in 2008."
Stewart said that in his role as Trump's state chairman, he will be the face of the campaign in Virginia, traveling the state on Trump's behalf.
"I'm going to work hard for him," Stewart said. "Trump is attracting independents, like Obama did, and he's changing minds."
According to the Dec. 15 Washington Post-ABC News poll, Trump's nationwide lead among registered Republicans stands at 38 percent, 23 percentage points ahead of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who takes second place with 15 percent.