Va. Gov Candidate Says Opponent Complicit In Human Smuggling, Warns Loss Would Be Blow To Trump Movement

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Alex Pfeiffer White House Correspondent
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WASHINGTON — Republican Virginia gubernatorial candidate Corey Stewart is upping the pressure against primary opponent Ed Gillespie and warning that a Gillespie victory “pushes back progress we made in 2016.”

Republican primary voters head to polls on June 13 and Gillespie holds a double-digit lead in public polling. The most recent public poll has Gillespie ahead with 38 percent and Stewart at 18 percent, with 24 percent of voters undecided. Stewart, who chaired President Donald Trump’s Virginia campaign before being sacked over a dispute with the Republican National Committee, told reporters Wednesday to disregard the polls.

“There is a major weakness in the polls, we haven’t had a Republican primary since 2005 so nobody knows who is going to vote,” Stewart, the at-large chairman of Prince William County, said.

The Washington Post reported Monday that Gillespie’s lobbying firm was paid more than $1 million between 2001 and 2007 by Tyson Foods to help with federal charges regarding smuggling illegal Mexican immigrants to work at its facilities. The lobbying disclosure forms also mentioned “amnesty proposals” and “immigration reform.”

In his response to the Post report,  the former RNC chairman Gillespie said he didn’t recall working for Tyson and a spokesman for the food giant put out a statement that said they retained Gillespie’s firm for “public affairs consulting, not lobbying.”

Tyson was acquitted of the criminal charges, but admitted that there was some smuggling of illegal immigrants. Stewart has pounced on this and said at a campaign event,”Ed Gillespie is complicit in smuggling illegal aliens into this country. He’s complicit in human trafficking.”

A spokesman for Gillespie’s campaign responded to this by accusing Stewart’s campaign of having a “a constant stream of fabrication and falsehoods.”

Stewart has focused on this charge and filmed a video for Facebook Live Wednesday outside the Washington office of Quinn, Gillespie & Associates “to discuss The Washington Post’s bombshell article about Ed’s complicity in human trafficking.” Gillespie left the firm in 2007.

He told reporters this accusation wasn’t going too far as Gillespie had came out in support of the 2013 “Gang of 8” immigration bill that would have given illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.

Although Gillespie’s been an advocate for “comprehensive immigration reform,” he has publicly opposed a pathway to citizenship.

Stewart has worked to implement anti-illegal immigrant measures at the local level and it has been a main issue on the campaign trail for him. He has also campaigned on “Virginia history,” which is how he refers to his defense of Confederate monuments around the state.

Stewart told reporters a victory by former Bush staffer Gillespie would push back on “progress we made in 2016 of shoving out the establishment.”

Correction: Quinn, Gillespie & Associates was paid more than $1 million by Tyson foods between 2001 and 2007, not just in 2001.