E.W. Jackson: Will Virginia's Extremist Republican Sink the Entire GOP Ticket?

It’s rare that a candidate for state lieutenant governor makes national headlines. But such is the case for this year's Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of Virginia, E.W. Jackson. 

Due to his numerous controversial statements on everything from homosexuality to yoga’s “demonic” ties, Jackson has received much national media coverage as the Virginia races continue, leaving many within his party concerned he may jeopardize Republicans’ chances on Election Day.

In May, E.W. Jackson won the nomination for lieutenant governor at the Virginia Republican Convention in what the Richmond Times-Dispatch called a “stunning upset.”  Of the seven candidates running, Jackson, a lawyer and pastor, had raised the least money.

Jackson, who is running alongside gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, has ruffled feathers and raised eyebrows with remarks that represent a view far outside the mainstream of the Republican Party.

In the past, E.W. Jackson has called homosexuals “perverted” and suggested that they are “sick people.”

Other comments of Jackson’s that will likely be concerning to Virginia voters and others within his party have been extensively documented. National Review published excerpts from his book, Ten Commandments to an Extraordinary Life: Making Your Dreams Come True. Among those excerpts were condemnations of yoga, which he believes will open a window of the soul to Satan, as well as a blurb about how most people around us are “dead” spiritually.

Statements like these have caused some Virginia Republicans to distance themselves from him, if not entirely denounce his statements. Cuccinelli, who faces a surprisingly tough race ahead, has already created some space between himself and Jackson, telling Politico, “I am just not going to defend my running mates’ statements at every turn. They’ve got to explain those themselves.”

Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.) also distanced himself from Jackson, stating that he would not endorse him due to his comments on homosexuality, but will likely vote for him come Election Day, presumably for the good of the party.

The political landscape in Virginia has dramatically shifted in the last five years. Prior to President Obama’s 2008 victory, Virginia was seen as a solidly red state. Democrats hadn’t won Virginia in a national election since 1964. But things have changed. In 2012, Virginia again went to the Democrats again.

The legislative body of the commonwealth, the Virginia General Assembly, is split between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans currently hold a small majority in the House of Delegates, while in the Senate they are split 50/50 with Democrats. The lieutenant governor presides over the Senate and has the ability to break tied votes — a crucial responsibility which would fall to Jackson, were he to be elected.

Whispers in Republican circles have expressed concern that Jackson’s extremist views might jeopardize their control of the state Senate, and may also hamper Cuccinelli’s gubernatorial chances by association.

This brings to mind Todd Akin’s challenge for Claire McCaskill’s senate seat last year. Akin was seen as the frontrunner until his offensive remarks on “legitimate rape.” Not only did Akin’s reckless remarks likely cost him his seat and the Republicans a chance at controlling the Senate, it is widely regarded to have had a greater impact on the 2012 election cycle as a whole.

With Akin's remarks taking place just before the Republican National Convention, the dialogue seemingly shifted overnight, putting abortion, rape, and women's rights at the foreground of an election cycle that had otherwise been largely dominated by economic issues. Needless to say, it served as a dagger for Republicans.

In the cases of Akin and Jackson, it is likely that despite their “out of the mainstream” views, they would have served their terms no differently from any other conservative Republican candidate. Unfortunately, during a campaign, oftentimes the worst a candidate has to offer tends to dominate the dialogue.

Here’s to hoping Jackson tones it down for his sake, Cuccinelli’s, and the sake of Virginia Republicans.