Jackson said he met with Cuccinelli (R) in 2010, when the Chesapeake minister was running for the U.S. Senate. During a brief conversation at a hotel in Suffolk, Jackson said, Cuccinelli suggested that he consider a run for lieutenant governor.
“He said essentially: I think you’d make a good candidate for lieutenant governor. Have you thought about it?” said Jackson, recalling that Cuccinelli had not yet decided to run for governor. “I do remember him suggesting that if it worked out . . . he would be proud to have me as a running mate.”
Cuccinelli’s campaign acknowledged that the men met three years ago, but spokeswoman Anna Nix challenged Jackson’s recollection.
“Ken asked why the Senate and if he ever thought to run for anything else — like maybe Lieutenant Governor? E.W. may have misconstrued that as a direct ask,” Nix wrote in an e-mail.
Jackson’s recounting of the story comes two weeks after he stunned the Virginia Republican establishment at the party convention in Richmond, beating six challengers to clinch the nomination. Jackson joins Cuccinelli and Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (Harrisonburg), the nominee for attorney general, atop the GOP ticket.
Democrats and others have since focused on Jackson, calling some of his past comments on gays and abortion “extreme.” Cuccinelli, who is running against Democrat Terry McAuliffe, and Obenshain have distanced themselves from Jackson’s remarks, referring reporters to the minister when asked about his past statements.
In his first wide-ranging interview since the convention, the 61-year-old former Democrat spoke of how faith informs his politics and sought to cast his views on abortion, homosexuality and President Obama in a new light — less combative language than he has used on YouTube or Twitter.
Jackson has called homosexuality “perverse,” compared Planned Parenthood to the Ku Klux Klan, and sharply criticized Obama over same-sex marriage and foreign policy.
But the former Marine said that his remarks were not meant to be offensive and that as lieutenant governor he would strive to represent all Virginians, including homosexuals.
“They’re citizens, right? They need jobs like everybody else,” he said. “You don’t stop being a citizen because you happen not to subscribe to my view of how a person ought to conduct themselves sexually. I don’t think that has any part in people’s right to opportunity.”
Jackson, whose Democratic opponent will be chosen in a June 11 primary, said that as a candidate he would tone down his approach to explain his views without shedding his conservative principles.
“I’m aware that in order to speak to people in a different venue, I have to think about how I want to express myself. If people won’t allow me to make the transition from minister . . . to candidate for lieutenant governor . . . if I can’t overcome that, obviously, I have a problem. But I think I can,” Jackson said. “You’re speaking to people who are believers and people who aren’t believers. I’ve got to speak the language of public policy to them, not the language of theology.”