Sunday, June 07, 2009

Interview with Corey Stewart

Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, hosted a reception on the first night of the Republican Party of Virginia's state convention last weekend, and I took him aside for about five minutes to interview him for The Metro Herald. I missed the deadline for this week's issue, but look for it in print next Friday.

Here is the text of the article:

Interview with Prince William County Board Chairman Corey Stewart
Rick Sincere
Special to The Metro Herald

The Metro Herald’s Rick Sincere was at the state Republican convention in Richmond on May 29-30. He had a brief interview with Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, at a convention-eve reception at the Penny Lane Pub near the Richmond Coliseum. Here is a transcript of that interview, which covered the upcoming elections, transportation and education issues, crime rates, illegal immigration, and more.

Metro Herald: What do you think is the atmosphere at the convention?

Corey Stewart: I think people are excited. But I think more than that, there is definitely a feeling that the party is coming back, that Republicans are now in the ascendance. Some of that anti-Bush feeling is gone. There is some buyers’ remorse out there in the community. I can feel it in Prince William County, with Obama, with the egregious amount of spending going on. I feel confident that we’re on our way back, I really do.

Metro Herald: What do you think the top issues you’re going to have to deal with in the fall are going to be?

Corey Stewart: It’s all the economy – everything. As Republicans what we need to do is emphasize economic growth, restraint in government spending, and pushing forward economic development. But more than that, I think the most important thing that government can do is just keep out of the way of business: deregulation and lowering of taxes on individuals and on businesses, and letting people keep more of their own money, and letting businesses keep more of their own money. That leads to economic growth. That’s the Republican message. That’s always been our message. That’s going to start gaining some real traction here, as we move into an even deeper recession coming forward.

Metro Herald: What are some specific initiatives you’re taking in Prince William County to achieve those goals?

Corey Stewart: We’ve cut taxes significantly. The average homeowner in Prince William County will receive [an] approximately 16 percent reduction in their average tax bill. It hasn’t hit them yet, because we just passed that budget. We had to cut $194 million in spending in order to do that. It means the average tax bill goes down significantly. People are going to appreciate that. Businesses, as well, are going to appreciate the lower tax levels in Prince William County.

Metro Herald: Do you have any specific deregulatory initiatives you’re working on, in terms of local businesses to try to attract more business into the county?

Corey Stewart: That’s a great question. In fact, we do. One of the things is, we have a very cumbersome permitting and inspection process in the county. A couple of us have spearheaded an initiative to reduce the time it takes for a business to expand or receive a permit to open up. We’ve reduced that significantly and the results are starting to come back. Prince William is growing. It’s growing very quickly. We’re also going to take additional steps to make the remaining part of that process, the zoning process, much [more quickly], so that businesses can make it through that process quicker and open their doors faster, as well.

Metro Herald: Big question for our readers in Northern Virginia: What do you think needs to be done for transportation?

Corey Stewart: I think clearly what has to be done in transportation is a matter of priority. We already pay enough in tax. What we have to do as a state government is do what we’ve done locally in Prince William, and that is, you have to cut. When you cut some of the excesses and the fat and, frankly, some of those lower-priority programs that have been built up over the past couple of decades, that leaves room in the budget for transportation. It’s a core government responsibility; it has to be done. You don’t have to do it by raising taxes. What you have to do is to cut other areas and make room for transportation.

Metro Herald: Similar question: What are you doing in terms of education?

Corey Stewart: In education, what we’ve done in Prince William County, is we’ve reduced all levels of government, every department, including our educational system. Unfortunately, the federal government came in at the same time and pumped $60 million of federal money, stimulus-fund money, into Prince William County’s educational system. What that led to was that some of those cutbacks in programs that weren’t working and so forth, were simply restored, because they used the federal money to restore those programs that otherwise would have been cut. In the long term, that’s not a good thing.

Metro Herald: Any special message you’d like to send to the readers of The Metro Herald?

Corey Stewart: I think, if you’re looking for conservative government in the D.C. metropolitan region, there’s only one community, only one locality that continues to be Republican-led. That’s Prince William County. We’ve cut taxes, we’ve cracked down on illegal immigration, our crime rate has now dropped 37 percent in two years (our violent crime rate). We’re doing some real conservative solutions that are working.

Metro Herald: What’s the secret to dropping the crime rate?

Corey Stewart: The crackdown on illegal immigration, frankly. When we started sending out the signal that, if you’re an illegal immigrant and you’re in our community and you commit a crime, you’re going to be deported, they began leaving. Immediately we started seeing the results and, as a result, all citizens benefit because the violent crime rate has come down so significantly in just two years.

Metro Herald: Are you playing any particular role in this convention, or are you just a regular delegate?

Corey Stewart: I’m here to support my candidates. It’s also great to be here this year. We’ve been so down for the last couple of years as Republicans but things are really, truly on the way back up.

Metro Herald: Do you have any local candidates you’d like to name right now, to say who you’ll be supporting in the fall?

Corey Stewart: I’ll be supporting Ken Cuccinelli [for Attorney General] and of course Bob [McDonnell for Governor] and Bill Bolling [for Lieutenant Governor], of course. Those are my three. I’m confident that we’re going to do very, very well this fall and that’s going to lead and set the whole stage for 2010 nationally.

Metro Herald: Do you have any candidates for the House of Delegates you think are going to be breaking through this fall, any challengers?

Corey Stewart: Well, we do. We’ve got a really good challenger in the 51st district in Rich Anderson, and Rafael Lopez in the 52nd. They’re going to do very well, I think.

Metro Herald: Thank you for your time.

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