Donald Trump's Virginia campaign chairman said his own 2017 gubernatorial bid will rise or fall depending on how Trump fares in his campaign for the White House.
"I am going to run," Prince William Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart said in an interview with AMI Newswire Thursday. Stewart noted that he had not "officially declared" his candidacy for governor,
Virginia voters will head to the polls in 2017 to select a successor to incumbent Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who is constitutionally limited to a single, four-year term.
Republican Ed Gillespie, who narrowly lost to Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Warner in 2014, has already declared his candidacy for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. Rep. Rob Wittman, whose politically mixed First District includes the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula along with a portion of the historic Virginia Peninsula, is considering a run but is focused on winning re-election to the House of Representatives this November.
Stewart, who ran unsuccessfully for the GOP's lieutenant governor nomination in 2013, is keeping a close eye on how Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, fares nationally this November.
"I think it will depend to a large extent on how [Trump] does nationally, and particularly in Virginia," Stewart said. "If he wins, if he's the president of the United States, that's going to help me tremendously when I run for governor."
When asked whether he expects Trump to offer his support and assistance to his gubernatorial bid, Stewart said, "I hope that he will. But my focus right now is to get him [Trump] elected."
Trump narrowly won Virginia's March 1 Republican primary over Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
In the recent Republican convention to pick at-large delegates to the national convention to be held in Cleveland in July, Trump's forces were largely outmaneuvered by backers of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, led by former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
Ten of the 13 national delegates chosen were Cruz supporters. Stewart, who sought to become one of the state's convention delegates, was not chosen.
Since then, he has been traveling the state mending fences with local Republicans and trying to rally Trump opponents to his side. And he is confident Trump will win Virginia in the November general election.
"I think it's going to be one of the tougher states to win because of the difficulty of winning in Northern Virginia," Stewart told AMI Newswire. "But I think we're going to win Virginia, and I think we're going to win nationally as well."
Stewart gave a broader look at the national race as well, stating that he thinks Pennsylvania, which was last won by a Republican presidential nominee in 1988, is "in play."
"If you look at the recent polling, no Republican presumptive presidential nominee has done this well in Pennsylvania," Stewart said, referring to a May 10 Quinnipiac poll showing Trump trailing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by a single point, 43 percent to 42 percent.
The same poll showed Trump losing to Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders 47 percent to 41 percent.
"I think there's a special appeal of Trump among blue collar voters," Stewart said, "I think it's going to carry him in the industrial portions of Pennsylvania."
"Obviously transportation is a perennial problem in Virginia, especially in Northern Virginia,"
Stewart said when asked what themes he may use in his own statewide race in Virginia next year.
"We're going to lay all that stuff out when the time comes," he said. "I'm so focused on the Trump campaign right now, that we're going to lay out all the positions, the issues, our positions on them, and what we expect to get done after the November election."
The biggest challenge for the Trump campaign in Virginia right now is "getting out the vote" throughout the state, he said, including heavily Democratic areas.
The campaign needs to get voters out "in the strong areas of the state - the I-81 corridor, south side Virginia, Hampton Roads, and of course, around Richmond," Stewart said. But populous, and largely Democratic, Northern Virginia is the key to victory in the state.
"Northern Virginia is absolutely critical," he said. "That's going to be ground zero."