Republican suicide in Virginia?

Having lived in Virginia for many years, I take more than a passing interest in the political scene there and this fall’s election will be a doozy!  Not quite sure what Virginia Republicans think they are doing, but unless everyone in Virginia has totally lost it, Terry McAuliffe should be the next governor.

This morning, the Washington Post has a story with 3 earlier related ones.  Here are the headlines with links:

E.W. Jackson a wild card in Va. GOP campaign  This is the main profile and biography.

Va. GOP’s E.W. Jackson: So far right he has said Democrats have ‘Antichrist’ agenda

E.W. Jackson complicates Cuccinelli bid

Va. GOP picks conservatives for fall ticket; black minister is lieutenant governor choice

So what exactly is going on in Virginia?   On May 18, the Post described the ticket this way

Thousands of Virginia Republicans on Saturday picked a slate of statewide candidates who vowed to stay true to conservative principles, resisting calls to remake the GOP message after losses in 2012.

At the top of the ticket is gubernatorial hopeful Ken Cuccinelli II, the attorney general. Known for high-profile battles against “Obamacare,” abortion and a university climate scientist, Cuccinelli stood by what detractors have called an out-of-the-mainstream agenda.

E.W. Jackson, a minister from Chesapeake, won the nomination for lieutenant governor with a full-throated appeal for limited government, traditional families and gun rights. “We will not only win an election in November, we will open the hearts and minds of our people and save this commonwealth and save this country,” said Jackson, the first African American nominated by the Virginia GOP for statewide office since 1988. [That was Doug Wilder, who won.]

For attorney general, the party nominated state Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), who this year successfully pushed tougher voter ID rules. “Are you ready to stop Obamacare in its tracks?” he asked the crowd in his acceptance speech, eliciting cheers.

Republican nominee for governor Ken Cuccinelli, right, is joined onstage with the other members of the ticket, including E. W. Jacksonon, second from left.

Republican nominee for governor Ken Cuccinelli, right, is joined onstage with the other members of the ticket, including E. W. Jackson, second from left.

It is as if the election last year never happened.  Mitt Romney didn’t lose.  Barack Obama never won.

But the candidate in the spotlight is Jackson.

Jackson’s improbable rise, one that has astonished Republicans far and wide, is the latest of a number of incarnations, including foster child, Marine, Harvard law school graduate and even Democrat. But the minister who is now GOP gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli II’s running mate has long used his booming voice to endear himself to conservatives.

Still, Jackson’s words — sometimes eloquent, sometimes raw, often impassioned — are causing anxiety for many Republicans as the resurfacing of his past statements about homosexuality and abortion have threatened to disrupt the campaign.

Instead of promoting their new ticket, Republicans have answered for Jackson’s once calling gays “perverted” and “sick” and saying Planned Parenthood has been “far more lethal” to blacks “than the KKK.”

Jackson has ties to Massachusetts which I didn’t know.

After a tour with the Marines, Jackson graduated with honors in 1975 from the University of Massachusetts, where he majored in philosophy. Then he graduated from Harvard Law School in 1978. He spent more than 20 years in Boston, practicing law, pastoring at New Cornerstone Exodus Church, serving as a chaplain to the Boston Fire Department, and hosting radio shows, including one called “Earl Jackson Across America.”

At one point, he was a Democrat, and he was elected to the party’s Massachusetts State Committee, where he distinguished himself with his conservative views. “I thought, ‘Wow, here’s a great potential leader,’ ” said James Roosevelt, who is a grandson of Franklin D. Roosevelt and who was then and is now legal counsel to the state Democratic organization. “Then I learned of his views, and I thought: ‘What’s he doing? This is not a leader of the Democratic Party.’ ”

Jackson became a Republican in the early 1980s, explaining that Democrats’ embrace of the gay rights movement violated his religious beliefs. In 1989, he joined the opposition to a proposal to ban discrimination against gays and lesbians in Massachusetts. “We intend to blow this bill to smithereens,” he told reporters then. “We intend to defeat this legislation and bury it so deep no one will ever find it again.”

Sorry Rev. Jackson.  We not only passed that bill, but we also have marriage equality.  I have to admit I never listen much to talk radio or to Jackson’s program.  He moved to Virginia in 1998, perhaps thinking the political climate there would be more in tuned to his views and clearly he was right about that: he is now the Republican nominee for Lt. Governor.  Jackson has also been affiliated with the Christian Coalition and the Tea Party.

“The Republicans I’m talking to are saying, ‘What the hell are they doing in Virginia?’ ” said Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee. “Is this, ‘101 ways to lose an election’? You’re coming out of the gate with comments everyone has to explain. You’re wasting a lot of time and energy batting that back when you should be doing other things to get the guy known.”

Although unknown to many Republicans, Jackson in recent years has built a following among the most activist of Virginia’s conservatives, many of whom were delegates at the convention. But Republicans are now concerned, Steele said, that Jackson will turn off the party’s own voters. “You can’t have a situation where Republicans say, ‘You know what? I can’t have this’ and they stay home or vote for the other guy,” he said.

Added to the mix is the investigation of the current Republican governor, Bob McDonnell awkwardly headed by the current Republican Attorney General and nominee for Governor, Ken Cuccinelli who took money from the same supporter.  The New York Times has that story.

Virginia’s attorney general has appointed an outside prosecutor to investigate Gov. Bob McDonnell’s financial disclosures, in a widening scandal over a political donor who wrote a $15,000 check for the wedding of the governor’s daughter, and who was also a benefactor of the attorney general.

Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the attorney general, who is also the Republican candidate for governor this year, said on Wednesday that he named the outside prosecutor last November to look into Mr. McDonnell’s disclosures.

Mr. Cuccinelli said “information came to my attention” triggering the appointment of the prosecutor. His referral of the case to the Richmond commonwealth’s attorney, Mike Herring, whose role is similar to that of a district attorney, “was not a conclusion that any violation occurred,’’ Mr. Cuccinelli said in a statement.

The investigation came to light through a Freedom of Information Act request by The Richmond Times-Dispatch, which first reported it.

Mr. McDonnell and Mr. Cuccinelli, who are yoked in an awkward political alliance – the former a popular governor of a purple state and his would-be successor, a Tea Party favorite — have been swept up in controversy over their friendship with a Virginia businessman, Jonnie R. Williams Sr., who gave generously to both officials.

What a tangle!  Can Terry McAuliffe pull out a win for the Democrats?

“We’re in a deep [expletive],” said one Virginia Republican strategist. “The only good news is that the Democrats have Terry McAuliffe. It’s the only thing keeping us glued to a chance of victory.”

McAuliffe, a former Democratic National Committee chairman, has faced questions about his leadership of an electric car company and some unflattering quotes from his own memoir.

All I can say is “stay ‘tooned”.

Photograph: Steve Helber/AP

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