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A Far-Right Candidate Just Won an Important Republican Nomination in Prince William County

John Gray is running for Corey Stewart's seat in a rapidly growing Virginia locale.
Screenshot from a Gray campaign video.

John Gray will be the Republican nominee for chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. He upset Marty Nohe in a primary this past Saturday and will face Ann Wheeler in the general election this November. They’re running to replace Corey Stewart, who tried to use his position as board chair as a springboard to higher office, unsuccessfully running for lieutenant governor, governor, and US Senate. Stewart said in January he was leaving politics.

So who is Gray? He’s a CPA and a Marine who’s simpatico with Stewart on immigration (his campaign-platform page says he’ll “Maintain the removal of criminal illegal aliens under Corey Stewart’s highly successful 287(g) program” and that he’ll prevent Prince William from “becoming a sanctuary county”). He also pledges to “Keep the radical social agenda out of our schools, including so-called ‘transgender rights’ that allow boys to compete with girls on sports teams.”

Gray’s campaign kickoff video includes warnings about “radicalized Democrats” who “have a very real chance of taking over this November.” A photograph of President Trump and a red MAGA hat appear behind him.

While Stewart, too, fanned wedge issues statewide and nationally, he balanced his nearly two decades on the council with the kind of nuts-and-bolts governance that rarely attracts widespread attention: things like tax rates and improving roads and schools. Gray favored protecting Prince William’s “rural crescent,” a green belt on the county’s north and west the county set up to discourage dense development; Nohe supported a currently shelved parkway that would have run through it.

The biggest question with Gray’s victory is whether he’ll be able to win in a climate increasingly unfavorable to Republicans. While Republicans still hold a commanding majority on the Board of Supervisors, Prince William’s population has grown nearly 63 percent between 2000 and 2017. Hillary Clinton won more than 57 percent of the county’s votes in the 2016 election and in 2018 Prince William voters overwhelmingly chose Tim Kaine over Stewart, 65 to 33 percent.

In a statement congratulating Gray on his victory, Wheeler says she hoped for a series of debates “so voters will get to see us both in person and compare us side by side. Prince William Republicans “are now completely controlled by the far right,” Wheeler’s statement says. 

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Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.