RICHMOND — Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling on Monday sharply criticized his party’s selection of E. W. Jackson as its nominee for lieutenant governor, saying it will “feed the image of extremism” in the party.
Jackson, a Chesapeake minister, emerged as the surprise winner Saturday in a seven-way race decided at a party convention in Richmond. Bolling, who is not seeking re-election, said the man party activists chose to replace him has made “simply indefensible” statements.
Jackson has strongly condemned homosexuality and Planned Parenthood, suggesting the latter had done more to hurt blacks than the Ku Klux Klan. In his failed bid for the GOP nomination in last year’s U.S. Senate race, Jackson called gays and lesbians “perverted” and “very sick people.”
“Bishop Jackson is certainly entitled to his views, but you should be able to express your views without insulting people, and some of the things he has said are simply indefensible,” Bolling said. “These kinds of comments are simply not appropriate, especially not from someone who wants to be a standard bearer for our party and hold the second highest elected office in our state. They feed the image of extremism, and that’s not where the Republican Party needs to be.”
Jackson’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In a brief interview with The Washington Post on Sunday, he said that his views on homosexuality are held by a majority of Christians and are not meant to be hateful.
“I think people always try to put that in the context of being hateful and it’s not,” he said. “It’s a particular worldview that every Christian for the most part who goes to church across this commonwealth shares: that marriage should be between one man and one woman. And anything else is an attempt to redefine an institution that really can’t be redefined. But I also like to let gay folks know that that same religious faith requires that you care about everybody, regardless. . . . It’s about religious principles, but never, ever about hatred or bigotry.”
Bolling dropped out of the race for governor last year after the party scrapped plans for an open primary in favor of a closed convention. Bolling said he could not beat his rival, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, in a convention, a forum dominated by the most committed party activists because it requires a daylong commitment and a trip to Richmond.
After quitting the race for the Republican nomination, Bolling considered running as an independent but ultimately opted against doing so. On Monday, he repeated his criticism of the switch from primary to convention.
“The convention process did what it was intended to do: It nominated the most conservative and ideologically driven candidates who were running,” Bolling said. “That’s what the leadership of the Republican Party of Virginia wanted. That’s why they opted for a convention, as opposed to a primary. It’s a ticket that will certainly excite the base of the Republican Party. The question is, how will it be received by the more moderate independent voters whose support you have to have to win an election?”
Asked about Bolling’s comment, Cuccinelli strategist Chris LaCivita said: “We don’t comment on comments by Bill Bolling.”
Cuccinelli himself made it clear that he would not comment on statements made by Jackson, telling The Post at an appearance in Virginia Beach Sunday that he was running his own campaign.
“I am just not going to defend my running mates’ statements at every turn,” he said, referring not only to Jackson but Sen. Mark Obenshain (R), who was nominated for attorney general.
Democrats, who will choose their ticket in a June 11 primary, have made it clear they will try to link Cuccinelli to Jackson. In a news release issued Monday, the Democratic Party of Virginia recalled Cuccinelli’s contention, made in an interview with the Virginian-Pilot as he ran for attorney general in 2009, that it is “appropriate” to base public policy on the premise that homosexuals engage in behavior that is “intrinsically wrong” and offensive to “natural law.”
“Ken has always believed that marriage is between a man and woman — he won’t change that position — but Ken also believes it’s important to convey policy differences without personally demeaning anyone,” LaCivita said.
In this race, Cuccinelli has tried to steer clear of social issues and stress economic policy in the style of term-limited Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), who ran four years ago on the slogan “Bob’s for Jobs!”
Until he dropped out of the nomination battle, Bolling had a voting record about as conservative as Cuccinelli’s. But the lieutenant governor he has a more conciliatory style than the attorney general, who has led high-profile battles against “Obamacare,” a university climate scientist and abortion. Bolling has since parted ways with Republicans on a range of issues, saying he planned to become an “independent voice” for the party.
Some Republicans have called Bolling’s new-found independence sour grapes, noting that Bolling himself was nominated in a convention four years ago.
“I like Bill Bolling, but Bill was nominated by a convention last time,” said Del. Tim Hugo (R-Fairfax), who was chairman of the convention.
Asked about Bolling’s criticism of the contention and Jackson, McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said via email: “The Governor believes in a Virginia that provides opportunities and respect for all. There will always be political and policy disagreements, but the governor believes we must express those disagreements with civility. While the Governor has a different opinion on a few issues than some of our candidates, as expected, he knows that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli will lead a strong ticket focused on jobs, schools, taxes and kitchen table issues.”