U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell has decided not to endorse Republican lieutenant governor nominee E.W. Jackson because of the Chesapeake minister’s past comments about homosexuality. But Rigell will vote for Jackson in November, the latest sign that his nomination has proved to be complicated for some members of his party.
Rigell (R-Va.), now in his second term representing the Virginia Beach-based 2nd district, made part of his position known during a meeting Monday with the editorial board of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, telling the paper he would not endorse Jackson.
“His views with respect to the gay and lesbian community and homosexuality in general are not my own. I’m going to leave it at that,” Rigell said. “What he said and, indeed, how he said it. All of it.”
Yet Rigell isn’t completely abandoning Jackson, who will be on the ballot with Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, the GOP gubernatorial nominee, and state Sen. Mark Obenshain (Harrisonburg), the nominee for attorney general.
“While my support for Ken Cuccinelli and Mark Obenshain includes my full personal endorsement, my support for E.W. Jackson is limited to my vote,” Rigell said late Tuesday in a statement provided to the Washington Post.
Jackson has stirred up intrigue within the Virginia Republican Party since he won a surprisingly resounding victory in a seven-candidate field at the party convention last month in Richmond. Democrats immediately began pounding Jackson for his past comments on race, abortion and homosexuality — including suggestions that homosexuals are “very sick people” with “perverted” minds whose behavior “destroys societies.”
Cuccinelli has said Jackson needed to defend his own remarks. Obenshain has said the same, though Obenshain has also said he doesn’t agree with Jackson’s statements about homosexuals.
Rigell — who opposes gay marriage but supports civil unions for same-sex couples — has a mostly conservative voting record but has sometimes broken with fellow Republicans on key issues, including gun laws and tax increases. Some tea party leaders in his district have said they hope to find a candidate to challenge Rigell in the Republican primary next year.
Virginia Democrats seized on Rigell’s comments Tuesday, pointing out that Cuccinelli has also made derogatory remarks about homosexuals.
“Congressman Rigell’s rejection of Jackson’s dangerous and mean-spirited rhetoric will ring hollow unless he applies that same standard to Ken Cuccinelli’s nearly-identical attacks on gay and lesbian Virginians,” the state Democratic Party said in a release.