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Virginia Delegate Nick Freitas is racing to the finish line ahead of the commonwealth’s June 12 U.S. Senate primary and says his message of individual liberty, smaller government and thriving markets is resonating with voters.

Freitas got a major political boost in March when his passionate defense of the Second Amendment on the floor of the Virginia House of Delegates went viral.

“When 40 million people see something, that helps with your name ID,” said Freitas.

While recent polling is scarce in the GOP primary, the viral video is helping Freitas raise his profile against primary rivals Corey Stewart and E.W. Jackson, both of whom have run statewide before. Freitas has dwarfed his rivals in fundraising in recent months, and he recently secured the National Rifle Association endorsement.

Stewart, who currently serves as chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, is known for his aggressive, confrontational style of politics. He says that approach will be necessary to defeat incumbent Sen. Tim Kaine in November. He also claims that his ability to win in a blue part of Virginia makes him the natural choice for a nominee.

Freitas strongly disputes that.

“Donald Trump does not need a cheap imitation of himself in order to win in Virginia. There’s only one Donald Trump. Let Trump be Trump. What the Republican Party needs in Virginia is someone who can go around and explain and advocate for the positive, substantive policies that have made people’s lives better,” said Freitas.

“He thinks it’s a divide and conquer campaign. I think it’s more of a divide and lose campaign. It’s unfortunate because there are good things about Corey Stewart and there are good things he’s done in Prince William County.

“But there’s other things he’s done there that have really given people pause. He’s voted to raise taxes several times in Prince William County, and there’s other things that people are just skeptical of,” said Freitas.

Freitas believes he has the ability to bring people together to get things done.

“We need to be able to unify Virginians around a central message and that message is we’re going to empower you, not government programs,” said Freitas.

Freitas also believes he separates himself from Stewart and Jackson in three critical ways, starting with his service as a Green Beret in Iraq.

“I’m the only combat veteran in the race, which means I understand a key component of the federal government, which is providing for national defense. I fought counter-terrorism, counter-insurgency and unconventional warfare. President Trump needs more people in the Senate that share his view that we are not the police force in the world but we need a strong military and I can provide that kind of advice,” said Freitas, who believes the U.S. does need to be a leader on the world stage but does not need to deploy the military unless absolutely necessary.

He also says his time in the Virginia House of Delegates sets him apart from Stewart and Jackson.

“I’m also the only candidate that’s served in the legislature. So I understand what it’s like to take an idea from concept all the way through the legislative process. I know how to effectively engage constituents in the process when there’s that critical vote in the subcommittee or full committee,” said Freitas.

Third, Freitas says his message distinguishes him from the rest of the field. He says his goal is not to gain power to reward friends and punish political foes but to return power to where it belongs.

“My goal is to get in a position where we can disperse power back where it belongs and that’s to the people, that’s to states, and that’s to localities. And then if we keep the federal government within its proper boundaries so it can do its intended jobs well instead of doing a hundred other jobs poorly,” said Freitas.

But what does that look like for a candidate who embraces major strains of both conservative and libertarian thought? Where does he land when those beliefs conflict?

On the role of the military, Freitas believes in having a strong military and using overwhelming force whenever force is absolutely necessary. He also wants to see Congress return to its constitutional role of authorizing war.

On cultural issues, Freitas says his deeply held Christian beliefs inform him on the definition of marriage, but he believes much of the political debate over it misses a key point.

“You’ve got some people wanting the government to define marriage one way. You’ve got other people who want that government to define marriage another way. And I’m sitting here going, ‘Why is the government defining marriage?’

“I understand why government has to handle civil contracts, but I certainly don’t understand why the government needs to be in the process of coercing people to accept a particular definition that they may not want to,” said Freitas.

Freitas introduced religious freedom legislation that would protect conscience rights for Virginians.

“(Former Virginia Gov.) Terry McAuliffe had signed an executive order which essentially prevented any religious organizations that happened to hold the viewpoint that marriage is between one man and one woman from being able to team with the government to help hungry, sick, and addicted people. I said that was ridiculous,” said Freitas.

On abortion, Freitas says science and the law make it clear that unborn life deserves protection.

“At the moment of conception, we’re talking about life. If we use science to determine between human life and other forms of life, we find at the moment of conception we’re talking about human life.

“From a legal perspective, I don’t think there’s any doubt that we’re also talking about innocent human life. So the question for me is does the government have an obligation to protect innocent human life? I think it clearly does,” said Freitas, who was born out of a crisis pregnancy.

“I don’t know what it’s like to be that young woman who finds herself pregnant and completely unprepared for it, but I do know what it’s like to be her son,” he said.

On fiscal matters, Freitas is appalled by the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill shepherded through Congress and signed into law by Republicans. He says Congress desperately needs transparency and open debate on what is worthy of taxpayer money. He also says Congress, like the Virginia government, fails to use common sense on spending issues.

“On the things that we agree on – that are legitimate functions of government – the military, law enforcement, public safety, certain things with transportation and others – great, let’s fund them. But let’s not hold those things hostage because certain congresspeople have different goodies that they’ve got to hand out to various constituents to help their re-election chances,” said Freitas.

Freitas says he’s also ready to tackle health care policy, especially after fighting against Gov. Ralph Northam’s efforts to enact Obamacare Medicaid expansion in Virginia. In addition to stating that medical care for Medicaid patients is not much different than it is for the uninsured, he says government intervening in health care is a guaranteed failure.

“What’s so frustrating to me is that what we clearly need in health care is more competition and more market forces, which always have a tendency to increase quality and drive down prices,” said Freitas, noting that the cost of vision correction surgery, such as Lasik, has dropped from $2,500 per eye to $500 per eye while the reliability of the procedure has improved drastically.

“Unfortunately, there are many, especially on the left, (for whom) the only solution they will accept is a government solution. The problem is government does the opposite of what we need. Government almost always causes prices to go up and quality to go down,” he said.

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