If Rep. Ed Markey wins the special election to become Massachusetts' junior US senator next month, it'll have at least one unintended consequence: A potentially ugly fight between two progressive Democrats for Markey's seat as the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee. After Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio launched his candidacy by getting 20 prominent congressmen—including Georgia Rep. John Lewis and two former chairs of the committee—to sign onto a letter on his behalf, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) is pushing back, winning the endorsement, on Thursday, of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
The battle-lines are familiar, if not not entirely related to the actual responsibilities of the Natural Resources Committee: immigration reform and the Keystone XL pipeline. "DeFazio actually has a very anti-Democratic record on immigration," argues Grijalva spokesman Adam Sarvana. As proof, his office is sending around a fact-sheet highlighting a vote DeFazio cast in 2012 that would have authorized the Keystone XL pipeline as part of a larger transportation package—in contrast to DeFazio's otherwise outspokencriticism of the project. Sarvana is also touting support DeFazio received from the anti-reform outfit Numbers USA. (The group does not endorse candidates but has praised DeFazio's backing of universal electronic citizenship checks as a condition of employment.)
In a statement provided to Mother Jones, DeFazio, who is still considered the front-runner for the job, dismissed the Keystone vote as a procedural oddity: "I just helped lead the fight in two committees and on the floor against the Keystone Pipeline. In 2012, I voted for a transportation bill designed to bypass Tea Party obstructionist and get a much needed transportation bill to conference. As a conferee, I had assurances from Senator Barbara Boxer the Keystone provision would be stripped out of the final bill."
Markey's job isn't open just yet—the special election isn't until June and recent polls have shown a tight race. But the Democrat has never trailed, and his possible successors aren't waiting around for clarity.
That's an actual tweet from the Rev. E.W. Jackson, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor of Virginia.
Jackson, a social-conservative activist with no record of electoral success, was nominated on the first ballot at the state GOP's convention on Saturday and almost immediately triggered an acute case of heartburn among the party's establishment due to his far-right views on gay rights and abortion. (Among other things, he favors the reinstatement of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and said the Democratic party's platform was in line with the Antichrist.) Jackson is, as Daily Kos Elections' David Nir puts it, "an oppo researcher's mescaline-fueled fantasy bender riding on pegasus-back."
And we're only starting to scratch the surface. A quick survey of Jackson's now dormant Twitter feed, @ewjsr (he now tweets at @Jackson4VA) shows that he is been remarkably consistent in his attacks on the gays, Muslims, and communists he believes are destroying the country from within.
"The 'homosexual religion' is the most virulent anti-Christian bigotry & hatred I've ever seen," he tweeted in October of 2009. "They have threatened me, but not vice versa."
That was around the same time he concluded that "[t]he homosexual movement is a cancer attacking vital organs of faith, family & military - repositories of traditional values." After President Obama addressed the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT rights group, Jackson groveled that the organization wanted to "homosexualize the country." After Family Research Council president Tony Perkins was disinvited from an event at Andrews Air Force Base, Jackson called the Obama administration "the Gestapo." When Rush Limbaugh invited Elton John to perform at his wedding, Jackson called it "utterly disappointing." He referred to Democrats as "Demoncrats."
Jackson, a Harvard Law School graduate and former student at Harvard Divinity School, recognized the contradiction in these statements, and openly struggled with it: "It will be interesting to see how Obama reconciles Islamicizing America with homosexualizing America," he tweeted. "Babylon v Sodom & Gomorrah." (The Baylonians weren't Muslim, but that's hardly the point.) Jackson considered it "tragic" that American foreign policy was, in his view, now "pro-Islam."
He was also bothered by the presence of practicing Muslims in the administration:
Jackson's fear of Muslims was such that after an Air France flight crashed into the Atlantic Ocean and a gunman opened fire at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, in 2009, he immediately alleged—citing absolutely nothing—that both events had been acts of Islamic terrorism. (The Holocaust Museum gunman was a white supremacist, and the Air France crash was ruled an accident). Responding to a report that Obama was hoping to use his space agency as a way of reaching out to to the Muslim world, he was indignant: "Obama's new mission for Nasa, not to explore space, but expand Islam! Huh?"
Given the last few days, this last tweet seems somewhat fitting. It's from 2010, and it's a stirring defense of another conservative activist whose unlikely nomination cost Republicans a once winnable race:
Rev. E.W. Jackson, the Republican nominee for Lt. Gov. of Virginia.
After dropping the last two presidential elections and the last three US Senate races, Virginia Republicans had good reason for optimism heading into this fall's elections: Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chair who bragged about nearly missing his child's birth so he could party with a gossip columnist, is at the top of the Democratic ticket. Things should be looking up for the Virginia GOP. Instead, the party’s activists have resisted calls for moderation and swerved hard to the right quicker than you can say transvaginal ultrasound.
Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican party's nominee for governor, once cited Martin Luther King Jr. as justification for his argument that sexual relations between two people of the same gender should be illegal. E.W. Jackson, the party's nominee for lieutenant governor, believes that gays are "degenerate" and "spiritually darkened" and will eventually destroy America. Mark Obenshain, the party's nominee for attorney general, recently attempted to require women to contact the police within 24 hours of a miscarriage.
The immediate cause is obvious. Virginia Republicans don't select their executive ticket via primary. Instead, they chose their slate last Saturday at a one-day nominating convention packed with grassroots activists. Jackson, a Baptist preacher who finished in the low single digits in last year's US Senate primary, was able to win on the first ballot by virtue of well-received speech typified by lines like, "I am not an African American, I am an American!"
"Conventions are not representative of the party," says Tom Davis, a former Republican congressman from Northern Virginia, referring to Jackson's nomination. "When you get a convention, this is what you get."
The race to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) is starting to take shape, and it's looking pretty one-sided. Rep. John Barrow, the Democrats' most-promising statewide candidate, has already announced he isn't running. The Republican field is growing. Former Georgia secretary of state Karen Handel, who gained notoriety last summer for attempting to sever the Susan G. Komen breast cancer foundation's ties to Planned Parenthood, is reportedly considering a run. David Perdue, the cousin of former Gov. Sonny Perdue, launched an exploratory committee on Wednesday. If they both formally enter the race, they'll join three candidates who made their intentions clear weeks ago: Reps. Phil Gingrey, Paul Broun, and Jack Kingston.
In their time in the House, the three congressmen have earned reputations as some of the lower chamber's most conservative members—and also some of the most prone to going completely off the rails. Together, they pushed to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases on the grounds that climate change is a hoax (more on that in a second). They've called on the Smithsonian to be investigated (Kingston), proposed personhood for zygotes (Broun) and sought to block the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act (Kingston again).
Here are some of their choicest quotes, each paired with a photo of an adorably confused animal so as to offset the general absurdity of suggesting (for example) that basic biology is a lie "straight from the pit of Hell":
Who said it? Gingrey, coming to the defense of failed Missouri Republican senate candidate Todd Akin, whose suggestion that a woman who had been the victim of "legitimate rape" had "ways to shut that whole thing down." Gingrey told a breakfast audience in January that as an ob-gyn, he often tells women who have trouble bearing children to "relax."
Who said it? Broun, in 2012, speaking in front a wall full of mounted deer heads. In response, he was repudiated by none other than Bill Nye, the Science Guy, who said Broun is "unqualified to make decisions about science, space and technology."
Who said it? Gingrey, making his own ill-fated appearance on the Colbert Report, responding to the host's suggestion that gay adoption is unnecessary because gay men can simply decide to become heterosexual.
Attorney General Eric Holder's appearance before the House Judiciary Committee went exactly like you'd expect. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) grilled him on the excessive redaction of emails he'd requested relating to Secretary of Labor-nominee Tom Perez. Rep. Tom Marino (R-Penn.) grilled him on the investigation into leaked intelligence on the Benghazi attack. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) grilled him on his failure to recuse himself in writing from said leak investigation. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said some crazy things about asparagus.
But not everyone was as focused on the scandals du jour (or asparagus). In a rare moment of actual congressional outrage over federal sentencing guidelines and drug policy, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) used his allotted five minutes to question the administration's near-total refusal to make use of its pardon power—and its continued prosecution of marijuana offenses. The money quote:
One of the greatest threats to liberty has been the government taking people's liberty for things that people are in favor of. The Pew Research Group shows that 52 percent of Americans think that marijuana should not be illegal. And yet there are people in jail, and your Justice Department continues to put people in jail for sale and use, on occasion, of marijuana. That's something the American public has finally caught up with. It was a cultural lag, and it's been an injustice for 40 years in this country, to take people's liberty for something that was similar to alcohol. You have continued what is allowing the Mexican cartels power, and the power to make money, ruin Mexico, hurt our country, by having a prohibition in the late 20th- and 21st-century. We saw it didn't work in this country in the '20s, we remedied it. This is the time to remedy this prohibition, and I would hope you would do so.