Despite living nearly 1,000 miles away in Southwest Florida, I’ve been closely following the mid-term election for U.S. Senator in the State of Virginia.

Even though I reside in Florida, I will always consider Virginia my home. I was born and raised in South Boston, and I attended college in both Southwest and Central Virginia.

Like most native Virginians, I have a desire to see the Commonwealth of Virginia succeed. Unfortunately, Virginia continues to be impacted by politically-driven agendas trickling down from Washington, D.C.

Nationally, I made the conscientious decision to vote for Donald Trump as President of the United States in 2016. Despite the media narrative, voting for Donald Trump does not make me a “Trump Supporter,” but rather, I am a voter who recognized which candidate could achieve the national issues I considered important. Issues such as:

w Protection of religious freedom

w Border security to prioritize American citizens

w Nominating Supreme Court Justices who believe in the U.S. Constitution

Aside from his unpolished, and at times, juvenile rants on Twitter, I am comfortable with my national decision to vote for Donald Trump 2016.

While I believe Donald Trump is the necessary consequence to a previously unchecked and unaccountable administration, I disagree with the president’s endorsement of Corey Stewart to represent Virginia in the United States Senate.

In 2013, I attended the Republican State Convention in Richmond. It was there where I first heard the name Corey Stewart, as he finished third on the ballot for the nomination of lieutenant governor.

Stewart, who has been a member of the board of supervisors in Prince William County since 2006, also ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination for governor in 2016.

In 2018, Stewart finally survived a statewide primary to face incumbent Tim Kaine for the United States Senate seat this November.

Here we have a candidate in Stewart, who has now run for three different elected offices in five years. I am all for the motto “if at first you don’t succeed,” however, I cannot express confidence in the belief that Stewart has the heart of Virginia in mind during his quest for political relevance.

I make no apologies for my conservative beliefs, and I have proudly volunteered for conservative candidates in the State of Virginia, who I believed, reflected my ideological voice and beliefs in putting Virginians before D.C. politics.

So speaking as a conservative, it would be hypocritical of me to sit quietly and not speak directly to my concerns over Corey Stewart seeking to be the voice of Virginians in Washington, D.C.

For too long, our commonwealth has endured the recycling of political candidates seeking office, mostly from the Republican Party in the last 10 years, and the election results over the same course of time speaks volumes to this political strategy.

Historically, I recognize the importance of preserving Virginia’s Confederate history, and I reject the emotionally imbalanced efforts of politically motivated extremists on both sides, to use Virginia as ground zero for Armageddon by the radicals on the left and the right.

However, Corey Stewart’s apparent dismissal of slavery as the central cause to the American Civil War, is not only historically inconsistent with Virginia’s history, but it intentionally, or unintentionally, conflicts with the very reason in which the Republican Party was created.

Adding to Stewart’s inability, or unwillingness, to put the cause of the Confederacy in proper context, I found Stewart’s comments against the city of Danville (a former Confederate Capitol), to be insulting to the people of Southside, Virginia.

When I was a kid, like most people in South Boston, Danville was the place to shop and be entertained. Unfortunately, Danville is still suffering from the effects of the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, and as a result, many of the factories and plants have long gone from this once vibrant economy.

I can agree with Stewart that Danville was impacted by NAFTA. I can agree with Stewart that Danville has an opioid problem and a growing gang problem.

However, unless Corey Stewart has provided an outline to revitalize Danville, then I characterize his comments as coming from someone in northern Virginia “looking out the window of an ivory tower.”

Make no mistake, Tim Kaine, whether in Richmond, or in Washington, is not the solution for the heart of Virginia. Whether it is his support for NAFTA, a Clinton-era program that caused thousands of jobs to leave the Southside area, or his inability to balance a budget as governor without using state reserves, Tim Kaine acts solely on behalf of his political party’s agenda.

No doubt Senator Kaine will show up in places like Danville and Roanoke as the election draws near, but he will be bringing the same stale promises of broadband internet to “rural folks,” and he will invoke the fear of “being put back in chains” to incite ideology agitation in the disguise of racial or ethnic concerns.

My critique of Corey Stewart is not an endorsement for Tim Kaine, because in truth, our commonwealth deserves better than Tim Kaine. My hope and goal with writing this piece, is that our “better” is truly someone who has a heart to put Virginia first.

Overall, my hope for Virginia is that candidates with a “Virginia First” mentality, will rise into state and federal elected positions.

Whenever Virginians go to the poll, regardless of race, ideology, economic status or party affiliation, that they are confident that their chosen candidate will speak for those who grew up and live(d) in “Ol Virginny,” as opposed to those who transplanted to be closer to Washington, D.C.

“Sic Semper Tyrannis”

Melvin Whitlock is a former resident of South Boston who now lives in Southwest Florida.