In VA Lt. Gov.'s Race, Opponents Focus on Stewart and $46 Million Taxpayer Funded Opera House

The race for the Republican nomination for Virginia Lieutenant Governor heated up on Wednesday when Virginia Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, one of seven candidates in the race, took aim at another candidate, Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart, who some blogs have alleged was behind an anonymous and illegal direct mail attack piece against Lingamfelter earlier in the campaign.

In an exclusive interview with Breitbart News, Lingamfelter criticized Stewart on two fronts: integrity and fiscal responsibility.

"I don’t think he’s been honest about his role in this negative campaign. And its important to remember the two things that have been casualties in post modern politics are truth and trust, and we have to nominate candidates who can establish integrity, they’ve got to be true to their word."

Lingamfelter also criticized Stewart for claiming to be fiscally conservative when he is not. "Corey Stewart is a certified bona fide tax raiser who voted for a $44 million Opera House [the Hylton Performing Arts Center] funded by Prince William County taxpayers," he said.

60% of the cost of the lavish taxpayer funded Hylton Performing Arts Center, which, according to the Washington Post, cost $46 million, was provided by Prince William County.  Added to this approximately $25 million is another $4.6 million (10%) provided by city of Manassas, Virginia, an independent local government completely surrounded by Prince William County, where the facility is physically located. The remaining 30% of facility's cost ($13.8 million) came from George Mason University, which has a nearby campus.

The original 2004 contract to build the facility was signed by Sean Connaughton, Stewart's predecessor as Chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, as the "duly authorized officer" of the entire board who, the document says "have caused this Agreement to be executed." Stewart was elected to the Prince William County Board of Supervisors one year earlier, in 2003, and has not confirmed yet whether he voted in favor of the building project. He became Chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors in 2006, four years before the facility was finished and open to the public.

Lingamfelter argues that support for Prince William County's Hylton Performing Arts Center (which contains the 1,123 seat Merchant Hall, described in the arts center's website as "an elegantly styled opera house with a 100 foot stage and orchestra pit") is part of Corey Stewart's record that doesn't align with the Tea Party's limited government philosophy. Lingamfelter adds that he was surprised that Stewart received the endorsement of the Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation, but that since the vetting process specifically excluded the public office voting record of the seven candidates interviewed, Stewart's role in supporting and promoting the taxpayer funded Performing Arts Center and Opera House was apparently not discussed in that process.

Although the Hylton Performing Arts Center may have not come up during the Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation endorsement, financial issues surrounding it are of great interest to at least one Prince William County taxpayer watchdog website, which claims "[t]here is a good reason for [current Prince William County Board of Supervisors] Jenkins, Caddigan, Stewart, Covington, and Nohe to stay mute about the terms of the [Hylton Performing Arts Center] contract. It is a huge embarrassment. The contract is a dog of all dogs."

According to the website, though "the Agreement contains a very important provision that purports to limit the purpose of the contributions of each of the three parties to the Agreement," Prince William County has, in fact "been paying more than $400,000 a year to fund the operating deficits of the Hylton." (emphasis added)

Prince William County and its taxpayers are "the big Patsy in the allocation of costs for the debt service," the site says. When "George Mason could not raise the money that needed to be raised before a shovel would hit the ground," the officials at the school "just called their pocket buddies on the [Prince William County Board of Supervisors] and magic happened." An amendment to the contract took George Mason University off the hook, leaving in their place the taxpayers of Prince William County:

Funding Targets . . . are hereby amended to remove the Endowment targets as a condition precedent, and to immediately permit George Mason University to secure permanent financing and proceed with construction...for completion of the Performing Arts Center.

"When you make an agreement," the site continued, "and then violate the terms of the agreement, you have a lot to be ashamed about. When you do all of that with taxpayers money, you should be held accountable."

In an email to Breitbart News, Steve Waters, senior advisor to the Stewart campaign, said that the Hylton Performing Arts Center "was a public/private deal and was initiated by Corey's predecessor."

Breitbart News has asked the Stewart campaign to comment on the claim that the Performing Arts Center has been receiving a $400,000 annual subsidy from Prince William County taxpayers, but has not yet received a response.

Last week, Stewart responded to his opponents' claims surrounding the illegal campaign videos and direct mail pieces on his website. "You could see it coming," he said. "When two of Virginia’s key grassroots conservative organizations supported my candidacy, I knew outrageous attacks wouldn’t be far behind. The Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation and the group Middle Resolution, which works to restore individual rights, recently vetted the candidates for Lieutenant Governor and gave their full support to my candidacy. That opened the floodgates for desperate and baseless accusations."

Stewart responded to standing criticisms of his spending record as well. "By reducing overall spending, focusing on priorities, and fostering economic growth through tax cuts and regulation reform, Prince William County has been able to fund the core functions of government — including adding 500 teachers, 129 police officers, 173 firefighters, 12 new schools, and $300 million in new roads – all without raising average tax bills. In fact, in real dollars, average tax bills are down 8.5%, and average property tax bills are, on average, 30% lower than the rest of the region."

On Tuesday, the Stewart campaign continued their counter-offensive by releasing the endorsement of Morton Blackwell, a prominent conservative who served in the Reagan administration and is currently a Republican National Committeeman from Virginia.

Meanwhile, supporters of technology entrepreneur Pete Snyder, who was targeted in two anonymously produced videos, gave the positive news for the Stewart campaign of the Blackwell endorsement a different interpretation. Brian Baker, President of Ending Spending, told Breitbart News that "the Stewart campaign is on the ropes after news of its illegal campaign activities became public. That's why they've been forced to recycle the old news of Morton Blackwell's endorsement this week. That fact was made public months ago -- and was even included in a direct mail piece sent out by the Stewart campaign to some Virginia voters back in March. Once again," Baker concluded, "the Stewart campaign again gets an 'F' for transparency."


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