Wildly popular — even if a bit unknown

FISHERSVILLE — As Corey Stewart strolled through the Showmasters Gun Show at Augusta Expo on Saturday, it was clear most people didn’t recognize the Republican going up against U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., in the fall election.

“Must be some politician,” one vendor was overhead saying after he saw a reporter snapping photos of Stewart chatting with two men at the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party Patriots’ booth.

“Really?” the vendor said, suddenly interested in the 50-year-old candidate, who admittedly looked a bit out of place in a houndstooth blazer, white dress shirt and neatly pressed jeans.

Soon, both men had sidled up to the GOP nominee for Senate, anxious to talk to Stewart and get their picture taken with him.

While many Virginians still might not recognize Stewart right away, name recognition is no longer much of a challenge for the longtime chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors.

His unexpected victory in the Republican primary for Senate earlier this year certainly helped, as did his near-upset of Ed Gillespie in last year’s gubernatorial primary.

But Stewart is perhaps best known for his fiery — and controversial — comments on everything from race and the Confederate monuments, to immigrants and his many critics.

Many Republicans see Stewart as an embarrassment to the party, an attention-seeking publicity hound who shoots from the hip with disparaging statements that accomplish little and do nothing to advance civil political discourse. What’s more, his critics point out, Stewart is hardly the man of the South he…

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