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These Republicans waving the Confederate flag won their primaries

Bitterly divisive Confederate symbols played a part in several Southern races

by Alex Lubben
Jun 13 2018, 11:30am

Corey Stewart campaigned in Virginia on his staunch support for Confederate symbols — but he’s not the only Southern Republican to win on Tuesday who’s got a fondness for the battle flag.

Another Republican, Lee Bright, who won his bid to replace Rep. Trey Gowdy in South Carolina, handed out bumper stickers to campaign donors back in 2015 during a state senate campaign. He was also one of the few Republicans in the state to call for keeping the Confederate battle flag flying above the Statehouse.

Other Republicans who won on Tuesday had voiced their support for Confederate symbols in the past, even if they didn’t campaign on the issue. Gov. Henry McMaster, the governor of South Carolina who leads his race but was forced into a runoff by challenger John Warren, wouldn’t call for the removal of Confederate monuments in the state even after violence broke out in Charlottesville, Virginia, last August following a rally to protect the monuments led by white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

The Confederate symbols, to their critics, represent the slaveholding history of the South, and were largely erected long after the Civil War, as part of a state-sanctioned effort to establish white dominance during the Jim Crow era. But supporters argue they represent freedom rather than oppression.

Stewart, who’ll be running against Democratic incumbent Sen. Tim Kaine in the fall, has built his campaign on Trump-style rhetoric, bashing immigrants and insulting his opponents.

After winning his primary bid last night, the crowd he addressed started a “Lock her up!” chant referencing Hillary Clinton. Stewart said, “That might just happen, by the way. And Timmy, too,” referring to Kaine.

“They have no respect for our heritage,” Stewart said, according to the Washington Post, surrounded by protesters in February of 2017. He was in Charlottesville to defend the same statue of Robert E. Lee that white supremacists would rally around later in that year. “They have no respect, not only to Robert E. Lee, a great American, but they have no respect for Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington or any of the other great American and Virginia heroes.”

Stewart has Republicans in Washington worried that his provocative rhetoric could hurt the party in South Carolina, where Republicans need to hold on to seats in order to maintain their control of Congress.

But Trump loves him. “Don’t underestimate Corey, a major chance of winning!” Trump tweeted.

Bright, too, has stuck to his fervent defense of the confederate battle flag. He was one of very few Republicans in the state senate who defended the flag, even after then-Gov. Nikki Haley called for it to come down, and gained national notoriety in 2016 for proposing the so-called transgender “bathroom bill,” which would have required transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their biological sex in public buildings.

Cover image: Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Corey Stewart speaks during the Virginia 6th District Republican Convention at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., Saturday, May 19, 2018. (Daniel Lin /Daily News-Record via AP)

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