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Duluth's Corey Stewart turns Confederate poster boy in Virginia governor race

Corey Stewart, Republican gubernatorial candidate, doesn't need any southern heritage to exploit it for votes.

Corey Stewart, Republican gubernatorial candidate, doesn't need any southern heritage to exploit it for votes. Publius2016

Corey Stewart was once just another northern Minnesota boy who wanted something more.

The 48-year-old Duluth native attended college at St. Olaf in Northfield and law school at William Mitchell in St. Paul before moving to Virginia. There, he became a politician, serving as board chairman of Prince William County, working on Donald Trump's presidential campaign, and dreaming of the governorship. This year, he's running for the Republican nomination.

Somewhere along the way, he became a neo-Confederate poster boy.

Neo-Confederates are people who romanticize the Old South. They call the Civil War the "War of Northern Aggression" and argue that it was fought over states' rights instead of slavery. (Read the Declarations of Seccession for yourself if this logic appeals to you.) They still fly the Confederate flag for "southern heritage," claiming it has nothing to do with racism.

Stewart likes all of this very much.

He recently attended an "Old South" ball, during which he made a passionate speech about defending the Confederate flag and earned the endorsement of Richard Hines, chair of the neo-Confederate group Save Southern Heritage. His gubernatorial campaign flies its own Confederate banner, and he has been railing against the removal of Confederate monuments from public streets in New Orleans (not in his state).

He's also a guy from Duluth who still seems to think the word "Yankee" is a slur. 

In all of this, Stewart seems eager to omit that he himself is a Yankee son of Minnesota, which is as far from the South as could be.

In fact, it was one of the first states to send soldiers charging into the Civil War on behalf of the Union, and today Minnesotans still pride themselves on being the ones to capture the Confederate flag at Gettysburg. That flag now belongs to the Minnesota Historical Society. When Virginia came asking for it back in 2013, Gov. Mark Dayton politely told them, in typical Minnesota Nice fashion, to fuck off.

Nevertheless, Stewart is persevering in his new identity. Earlier this year his campaign was caught editing his Wikipedia page to make him more likeable. Changes included replacing his lawyer experience with the name of his church, removing the fact that he'd been fired from the Trump campaign, and adding that many anonymous political analysts have bright hopes for his future.

An important saving grace to all this embarassment is that Stewart really does represent a fringe group of people.

Most Republicans in the county he governs -- 62 percent, according to a poll by the Republican Party -- have indicated they would vote for his less-crazy Republican competition, Ed Gillespie. Half of Stewart's colleagues on the county board said the same, and even the Republican county sheriff has distanced himself.