Overwhelmingly re-elected last month to a second term in the Virginia General Assembly, Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, is now preparing for a larger political platform.
The 38-year-old Iraq War veteran and conservative Christian from California announced Friday night that he would, in fact, seek the Republican nomination to run against Democrat Tim Kaine in next year’s U.S. Senate election.
Freitas, who moved with his family to Virginia in 2009 following his service as a Green Beret, made the announcement in a cramped, dim room at the Homestead with a banner, “Liberty Rising,” behind him.
He said Saturday morning that he would continue to fulfill his obligations in the statehouse for the 2018 session, beginning in January, and that he had already submitted his legislation to the online system. Freitas will simultaneously campaign for the U.S. Senate seat, saying that incumbents already do that.
Ending months of speculation, Freitas decided to challenge the former vice presidential candidate after considering the current state of the Virginia GOP, which, he said, was at a crossroads. In announcing his decision, he spoke about his platform of individual freedom and less government involvement.
Government “treats free people as if we were subjects rather than citizens,” Freitas said. “I despise that world view.”
The defense contractor, husband and father said in his announcement speech that citizens are made in the image of God and entitled to liberty, equal protection and justice before the law, but that people can – and should – rise above adversity on their own without too much dependence on government.
“If you’ve been told all your life you’re a victim it becomes true the moment you start to believe it,” said the candidate who was raised by working single mother.
Freitas acknowledged that Kaine has unlimited resources, but pushed back on assertions that running against the incumbent at this point could hurt the challenger’s political career.
“I don’t have a political career. If this campaign ever becomes about something so myopic as an individual get rid of me in a heartbeat,” Freitas said. “This is a movement of people who are tired of saying they have to accept government subsistence other than everything liberty has to offer.”
Among the state party, some view the Culpeper delegate as a more palatable, mainstream option to Corey Stewart, the outspoken longtime chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. Stewart was Virginia’s campaign chairman for Donald Trump and is known for his anti-immigration stances. Stewart will seek the party nomination to run against Kaine and possibly others including evangelical minister E.W. Jackson.
Democratic Party of Virginia Chairwoman Susan Swecker said that if the Republican field of candidates seeking to unseat Kaine were any further to the right they’d be 50 miles off of Virginia Beach. She said Freitas has supported anti-woman and LGBT legislation, does not support Medicaid expansion and has bragged about his NRA endorsement.
“The fact that Freitas is now allegedly the ‘moderate’ establishment alternative shows just how out-of-touch the Republican Party of Virginia is,” Swecker said. “Virginians cannot afford to hand the Senate seat over to a rubberstamp for Donald Trump.”
The Kaine campaign declined further comment Saturday, referring to the party statement.
Goochland County Board of Supervisors member Susan Lascolette signaled her support early Saturday.
“Keeping the Republic is not the main thing, it is the only thing. Nick embodies the family and faith values that I believe are critical to restoring the moral fiber of our nation and his military service shows his commitment to America and its citizens,” she said on the candidate’s campaign Facebook page.
Computer programmer Ben Hixon of Culpeper ran as a Democrat against Freitas in the November election. Hixon got 9,333 votes to Freitas’ 15,355 across District 30 – which includes Orange and Madison counties. Though Freitas easily won Culpeper County, he lost – albeit by less than 100 votes – the two combined voting precincts in the more diverse town of Culpeper.
Asked about Freitas now turning his attention to a U.S. Senate run, Hixon said the delegate certainly has a politician’s ambitions. Hixon criticized Freitas for “running for two office at the same time,” saying his state campaign staff in past months has also been maintaining a campaign Facebook page for the federal office.
“It shows that he thinks of Culpeper as just a political pit stop. He used this year’s campaign to network all over Virginia instead of meeting with voters here face to face,” said Hixon, adding the chances of Freitas actually beating former Gov. Kaine next year are “not even close.”
Freitas said Saturday he could beat Kaine, an attorney and first term senator who was also mayor of the city of Richmond.
“I don’t think anyone disputes the fact that the federal government has grown to be completely unmanageable and highly intrusive into areas that are none of its business,” Freitas said. “We have to have leadership that will remind the federal government that their role is to protect liberties and property, not to micromanage our lives.”
Culpeper County Republican Committee Chairman Jon Russell, a Culpeper Town Councilman, supported Freitas in his bid.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for Nick with the toxic politics coming from Washington, D.C.” said Russell. “The commonwealth will do well having a statesman like Nick in the U.S. Senate.”