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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Candidates seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Virginia clashed during a debate over the violent white supremacist protests in Charlottesville last summer.

The three candidates debated at the University of Virginia Tuesday.

Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, Nick Freitas, a state delegate from Culpeper, and E.W. Jackson, a minister from Chesapeake, are seeking the chance to challenge Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine. The primary is scheduled June 12.

Media reports said Freitas said the image of people marching with Nazi flags was abhorrent, but said all speech must be protected, even speech he disagrees with.

Stewart echoed controversial comments made by President Donald Trump, saying the “two sides” at the protests engaged in violence. Jackson said Americans “have got to come together.”

The candidates also differed on sanctuary cities and how to stem the opioid epidemic.

Jackson said he supports arresting mayors and governors who provide sanctuary cities and criticized politicians who compare themselves to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., acting “like they’re some kind of civil rights hero by protecting illegal immigrants.”

Freitas spoke about enforcing border security while also making immigration easier.

Stewart touted his claims that he lowered crime in the county by targeting illegal immigrants and said officials who provide sanctuary cities should be prosecuted.

On the opioid epidemic, Freitas said he favors creating programs to help people with addiction. Stewart cited medical marijuana as a solution to prescription opioids and said building a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico would keep out illegal opioids.

Jackson said religion could be part of the solution and said it’s time go back to the idea “that there are healthy things and there are unhealthy things.”


This story has been corrected to attribute the final quote to E.W. Jackson, not Nick Freitas.