September 29, 2013

TO E.W. Jackson, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of Virginia, Democrats are agents of the antichrist. Homosexuals are “frankly very sick people psychologically, mentally and emotionally” who “poison society” and invite God’s wrath. Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and others who don’t follow Jesus are adherents of “false” religions. Slavery and the Ku Klux Klan were no great threat to African Americans compared to that posed by Planned Parenthood and the welfare state.

Mr. Jackson has made demagoguery his oratorical stock in trade for some time; before mounting his current candidacy for lieutenant governor, he ran last year for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate. Lately he has been trying to take it all back, insisting that his past remarks — the bit about Democrats pushing the Antichrist’s agenda was a year ago, and the disparaging remark about minority religions was this week — were simply in the context of his day job, not a reflection of his political views. He is pastor of a small church in Chesapeake. “Anybody who knows me knows that I believe in the Christian principle of love for all people,” he said.

Even fellow Republicans aren’t buying his 11th-hour conversion to love, tolerance and acceptance. The National Rifle Association and some tea party types have endorsed Mr. Jackson, but other conservatives are keeping their distance. Apparently appalled by his bombast, seven of the eight Republicans in Virginia’s congressional delegation have withheld support, including Rep. Frank Wolf, who represents part of Northern Virginia.

It would be easy to ignore Virginia’s race for lieutenant governor, a post that former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, who once held it, described as “a rather vacuous position.” The job, which pays a salary of $36,000, is considered part time.

But the lieutenant governor does have one important task: preside over the state Senate and cast the deciding vote in the event of a tie. At the moment, Democrats and Republicans are evenly split in Virginia’s Senate; each party holds 20 seats.

Richmond has thrived on pragmatic governance, and it’s doubtful that voters are eager to see the Senate under the sway of a rhetorical bomb-thrower whose contempt for homosexuals and religious minorities — to say nothing of his certainty that Democrats are doing Satan’s work — put him beyond the fringes of American politics.

Mr. Jackson is an embarrassment to the Republican Party, which nominated him in a sparsely attended party convention based on little more than stirring oratory. If elected, he would be an embarrassment to Virginians.

The Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor is Democratic state Sen. Ralph Northam, a pediatric neurologist. In contrast to Mr. Jackson, Mr. Northam, a fiscal conservative who represents a district encompassing parts of Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore, is a calm, collected fellow, well respected by members of both parties. Four years ago, Republicans in Richmond tried to get him to switch parties; Mr. Northam graciously declined. Unlike his combustible opponent, Mr. Northam has a reputation for considered judgment. Wouldn’t that be a desirable quality in an elected official?