(CNN) Corey Stewart, the Republican nominee for a US Senate seat for Virginia, praised in a speech last year Virginia's decision in 1861 to secede from the Union, putting it on par with rebellions during the American Revolution and today.
The Virginia Republican made the comments in April 2017 at an event in South Boston, Virginia, hosted by an unapologetic secessionist. A video of his remarks, given during his failed 2017 gubernatorial run, was posted on his Facebook account.
He is challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, a strong favorite to keep his seat, and national Republicans are worried that Stewart's candidacy will turn off some GOP voters, potentially hurting Republican's ballot races.
"When you say you're from Virginia, when you travel outside of this state and somebody asks where you're from, you say with pride, 'I am from Virginia. I'm very, very proud of it,'" Stewart said. "You're very, very proud of it. And why is it? It's because of our history, folks. It's because of our history. This is the state of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and James Monroe. It's a state of the founders. It's the state of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
"But it's also the state of Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson, and J.E.B. Stuart. Because, at the base of it, Virginians, we think for ourselves," he continued. "And if the established order is wrong, we rebel. We did that in the Revolution, we did it in the Civil War, and we're doing it today. We're doing it today because they're trying to rob us of everything that we hold dear: our history, our heritage, our culture."
Stewart, whose defense of Confederate symbols became a staple of his unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign, defined the established order earlier in the speech as the mainstream media, liberals, Democrats and establishment Republicans "trying to convince us that there's something wrong with our heritage in Virginia."
In response to a comment request from CNN, Stewart released the following statement: "Unlike Wimpy Tim Kaine, Virginians have a warrior spirit and a rebel heart."
Stewart has continually tried to downplay his past ties and praise of white nationalist figures like Jason Kessler, an organizer of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, and Paul Nehlen, the anti-Semitic Republican congressional candidate who took on Paul Ryan in 2016.
According to records from Virginia's Department of Elections, the event in which he praised secession was paid for by avowed secessionist George Randall. Stewart was introduced by Randall's wife, Donna, who also promoted the event on Facebook.
Randall is an unapologetic secessionist, telling The New York Times, "I'm a secessionist because the federal government is anti-Christian and we're different culturally."
Mediaite reported that both George and Donna Randall participated in the white supremacist Unite the Right rally held last year in Charlottesville, Virginia, and that George Randall was seen marching with former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
George Randall, along with his brother, regularly attend Stewart events, and told the New York Times they provide volunteer security for Stewart, though Stewart denied it.