VIRGINIA

E.W. Jackson: A controversial candidate

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OPINION:

It’s important – nay, unequivocally essential – that good journalism provides a complete and unbiased take when broaching any matter large or small. That, of course, is why FOX News is so respected in the industry, what with its “fair and balanced” mantra.

(Cough, cough. Ahem).

So anyway, in that spirit, we gather today for a spirited defense of one E.W. Jackson, the Chesapeake minister who won the Virginia GOP’s nod as its lieutenant governor last weekend at the Republicans’ convention in Richmond.

Thus does he officially team up with Ken Cuccinelli, the party’s pick for governor. Cuccinelli, like Jackson, is all for creating jobs and increasing small-business opportunities in the state. They share socially conservative views, as well, of course, and in fairness and balance, some of Jackson’s are his and his alone – something that has been making headlines for a week.

More on that to come. But first, here was what political talk-show host Chris Matthews said Thursday night on MSNBC’s “Hardball” program:
“Good luck, Cuccinelli!,” Matthews said of Jackson before adding with a roll of his eyes an aside, “He’s got a great running mate.”

Inasmuch that this is a fair-and-balanced look at Jackson, here are some of the things that have been chronicled of late by both the state and national press, and what undoubtedly prompted Matthews’ quips, as helpfully provided by the Washington Post editorial board:

“A survey of his rhetorical greatest hits includes assertions that Democrats are peddling the anti-christ’s agenda, that Planned Parenthood has done more damage to African Americans than the Klu Klux Klan; that homosexuals are “frankly very sick people psychologically, mentally and emotionally; and that the President sees the world “from a Muslim perspective.”

So, um, yes, there’s that.

But is Jackson actually a swell guy who simply is misunderstood?

That was the exact question put to Larry Sabato, the noted political scholar who’s the director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

“I have no clue,” Sabato said in response. “I have only met him one time for a short conversation. Let’s just say he has a very unusual profile for a statewide nominee, and I’ve personally known every Virginia nominee in both parties since the 1960s.”

Fair enough, and now some balance:

“Here's Jackson's problem: It isn't just that he has said some exceptionally controversial things about race, gays, and other subjects,” Sabato said. “It's that many prominent Republicans are expressing severe doubts about his candidacy and ability to win. They're making no secret of their concerns in private discussions, and sometimes on the record.”

For evidence, consider what former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele of Maryland told the Post: “The Republicans I’m talking to are saying, ‘What the hell are they doing in Virginia?’ Is this ‘101 ways to lose an election?’ ”

Tell that to the relative handful of not-really-representative Republicans who voted for Jackson at the convention, held – in large part at Cuccinelli’s insistence -- to avoid a more representative primary.

But back to our narrative. Do Jackson’s critics dwell too much on a handful of supposedly radical comments and not give him enough credit for legitimate things he has accomplished in his career?

“A large majority of lieutenant governor nominees have served in major local office or the state legislature before running statewide,” Sabato said in response. “Jackson has never been elected to anything, and when he ran for the U.S. Senate last year, he received less than 5% of the vote in a GOP primary. Again, it's hard to think of a comparable situation.”

OK, then. Moving on, one of the more important roles bestowed upon the lieutenant governor is to make tie-breaking votes in the Virginia Senate.

And indeed there are plenty of true believers.

Here’s what a group that dubs itself “Tea Party Nation” said Friday in a statement, as recounted by Right Wing Watch: “In an email today, the group’s president Judson Phillips said that E.W. Jackson is under criticism because his anti-gay comments “are popular in the black community” and “that shocks and offends liberals.”

“Phillips compared the Virginia GOP’s candidate for Lt. Governor to Ronald Reagan and bragged that “the 2013 ticket for the Republicans in Virginia represents the victory of the Tea Party over the establishment.”

And, as Richmond-based political consultant Steve Waters told the Virginian-Pilot: "People didn't elect E.W. Jackson to talk about jobs," said Waters, who once worked for the nominee. "They elected him to tell it like it is."

So is there really a problem here? 

After last weekend’s convention, Cuccinelli expressed to reporters the utmost confidence in his running mate.

“I’m confident that we’re going to get the right vote every single time out of E.W. Jackson,” he said. “So I’m glad he’s on this ticket, too.”

So there you have it.

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