News & Features » Miscellany

A Democrat hits the road to claim historically Republican territory.

Mr. Stewart Goes To Winterpock


The semiofficial campaign vehicle of Warren Stewart's bid for Congress is a 1982 Oldsmobile Delta 88 from which more than 7,000 miles have been coaxed since July.

The car turns heads, though the wrong way. It has been rear-ended at least once. It does not impress anyone in Virginia's 7th District, really, except, by its implied frugality, Stewart's campaign contributors. And the nearly 20-year-old car's license-plated motto - ALWAYZ - seems, amusingly enough, all too prescient. (It was his mom's car, Stewart explains, before he bought her the little Mercedes, and "Always" was his parents' favorite song.)

Silly, but the car's very improbability sums up Stewart's campaign. A Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, Stewart, 54, is given little chance of winning this Republican-by-design district, a fat crab-claw with Richmond in its pincers. Tom Bliley has held its congressional seat for 20 years and wishes to hand it to state Del. Eric Cantor. Warren Stewart and his 1982 Oldsmobile Delta 88 are trying to get in the way.

The 7th District includes western portions of the city and the counties of Henrico and Chesterfield, and extends northwest past Culpeper. Stewart's home in western Goochland County is about midway, he notes helpfully. Style spoke last week with the county's former school superintendent as he was driving between campaign events.

Style: Why do you want to be a congressman?

Stewart: In order to form a more perfect union. For over 15 years I've worked off that preamble to the Constitution. It's very important to me to be a unifying force. I want the remaining part of my career, everything I do, to be focused on accomplishing the goals our forefathers and mothers intended.

I want to represent the people. I never want to see myself as the connoted 'politician.' I want to see myself as a person. As [former Lt. Gov.] Henry Howell used to say, I want to keep those big boys honest. I can't be bought, I can't be sold, and I can't be controlled by those money interests. I can only be controlled by the people.

Style: What would you want to accomplish if elected?

Stewart: Once we shore up Social Security and Medicare, I want to focus on education. Because [serving in the House of Representatives] is a two-year cycle, I want to focus very quickly on education. For almost 30 years, I've been doing what [Republicans] now say they want to do.

I want to be the education congressman. First, we need to recruit more of this nation's best and brightest to be our children's teachers. We need to earmark significant federal tax dollars to provide, as directly as possible, a generous loan program aimed at top high school graduates who want to become teachers. I also want to reinstitute what in the 1950s was called the National Defense Education Act. I am proposing a National Security Education Act to provide low-interest loans to qualified students, and renewable by excellent performance, throughout undergraduate and graduate schools. These students could pay off their loans through prescribed years of teaching.

We also need to rebuild our education infrastructure. A school should have four walls, not four wheels. So I would provide no-strings money to local government for school-construction needs. Local government knows best what to do for local education.

Style: How would you vote on other issues, generally: liberal, moderate or conservative?

Stewart: I'm conservative with money. Have you ever known a Scotsman who wasn't? I'm driving an '82 Oldsmobile right now. I clip coupons for the grocery store. I buy all my clothes on sale.

Warren Stewart is moderate government. Government should do the things that government does best. I care about people. My issues are people issues, and I'm proud to pay taxes to do things that people need. For example, as I've driven all over this district, I've heard every single locality talk about sprawl. I support no-strings money to local government to plan their growth. Development in my opinion should not be controlled by the developers but by the local government that puts forth a growth plan.

Style: What do you do for fun?

Stewart: I won't give you any X-rated stuff [laughs], but I like to be outside and I like to use my body in sports and various activities. I tore my Achilles tendon about three years ago, and it took me about two years to rehab it, but I'm back running again. I'm slower now, so I'm chubbier. [Laughs.] About 30 pounds chubbier.

I love being on the beach or in the woods. I love golf. I shoot somewhere in the upper 70s, lower 80s. Yesterday I shot even par on nine holes - with one mulligan.

I still love teaching. I've always been in a teaching mode. When I was superintendent, I taught at least once a week on average.

Style: How can you possibly beat Eric Cantor?

Stewart: Let me ponder for a second. [Pause.] OK. [Long pause.] Remember, I want to represent the people. So far, I've already accomplished that mission in many ways. I intend to get more votes than Mr. Cantor on Election Day, and I believe it will happen because people will prefer my vision, my plans and my energy to his. I'm representing a party that I believe has many issues that are paramount in people's minds.

The most difficult thing is when you have the limited source of funds that I have. But we're getting out there. We've got a new press secretary and we're going everywhere.

I choose to believe that people vote for the best person. I've been serving for almost 40 years. I've been a leader in high school, college, business, the military, education and with the private organizations I serve with. If you add all that up, I've been leading as long as Mr. Cantor has been living. It's brought me to the time when I want another opportunity to

Add a comment