Jackson ‘In The Fight’
City Visit Coming For Former Candidate
HARRISONBURG — Outspoken Chesapeake minister E.W. Jackson is returning to the city on Saturday and may try to get back into politics this year, too.
But time is running out if the Republican wants to make a bid this fall for U.S. Senate, and three Northern Virginia suitors appear to already have lined up to vie for the party’s nomination to take on the incumbent, Democrat Mark Warner.
In a phone interview, Jackson said his team is assembling a strategy to combat what he feels was a major contributor to his past political losses: the media portrayal of him as “way out there.”
Jackson, who unsuccessfully ran for the Republican nomination for Senate in 2012, was the party’s pick for lieutenant governor last year but lost in the general election to Democrat Ralph Northam by more than 200,000 votes.
“You can’t have a media that has an agenda,” he said. “I don’t want a conservative media doing that. I don’t want a liberal media doing that. … It’s not fair to the voters.”
Jackson would not rule himself out for a bid for the Republican nomination for Warner’s seat. Candidates interested in filing for the party nod must apply by 5 p.m. Feb. 1.
A convention of party faithful will be held in Roanoke in June to pick a candidate.
Jackson will be at Wood Grill Buffet on Reservoir Street in Harrisonburg at 11:30 a.m. Saturday for a speech.
Reservations are required and can be made by calling 438-8966.
At 2 p.m., Jackson will receive an award at a Martin Luther King Jr. program hosted by the Shenandoah Valley Hit newspaper, a publication for the local African-American community.
‘No Pushover’ Emerges
Retired Navy officer Howie Lind of McLean and retired Air Force combat pilot Shak Hill of Centreville already have announced that they will seek the GOP Senate nomination.
“They both are very patriotic, constitutionally based governance type of guys. The conservative side will have choices. That, from my perspective, is good,” said Suzanne Curran, a Mount Jackson resident and western vice chairwoman of the party’s State Central Committee.
A bigger name is expected to be in the fold, though. Multiple media outlets say former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie of McLean will announce a run for the GOP nomination this week.
Gillespie was a senior adviser for Mitt Romney in Romney’s failed 2012 presidential campaign and a White House counselor in President George W. Bush’s second term in office.
“Special interests already have enough power in Washington. We can’t allow Ed Gillespie to turn back the progress we’ve made,” said Keyanna Conner, Warner’s political director, in a statement to supporters Monday night about Gillespie’s pending campaign.
The University of Virginia Center for Politics takes Gillespie’s bid seriously, too. In its projections, it has moved Warner’s seat from “safe Democratic” to “likely Democratic” because the Republican is no “pushover,” political analyst Geoff Skelley said.
“Gillespie is well-connected and can raise a lot of money, which he will need to do to have any chance against Warner, who has already amassed a large war chest and is personally wealthy,” he said.
But the same nominating route that made Jackson a big name could hurt Gillespie, an “establishment Republican,” Skelley said.
“Currently, the other two declared candidates appear to be relatively minor, but then again, we said that about E.W. Jackson prior to his nomination win [last year], so it would be foolish to write them off entirely,” he said. “If Jackson himself were to get into the Senate race, that could definitely shake things up and complicate Gillespie’s route to the nomination. Jackson remains a favorite of the right in Virginia and has already proven his mettle in a convention setting.”
Jackson’s nomination for lieutenant governor last year was something of a surprise, and required defeating six other candidates for the GOP nod. In his 2012 U.S. Senate campaign, he earned less than 5 percent of the vote in a primary election won by former U.S. Sen. and Gov. George Allen.
But in last year’s convention setup, which attracted a heavy tea party presence favorable to Jackson, the minister proved popular among voting delegates.
Curran said Jackson is “much admired, deeply respected and high electable,” particularly west of the Blue Ride.
After last year’s convention, Jackson was painted as an “extremist” by Democrats — a label too often believed and reported by members of the media, he said. For example, he has been criticized for his views on homosexuality.
Not in response to any particular quote, Jackson said he’s “pro-Bible, pro-God” but not “anti-gay” as he feels he’s been portrayed.
“They’re really calling the Bible anti-gay and Christians anti-gay,” he said of his detractors. “No true Christian is hateful about anybody.”
Although the entire statewide GOP ticket lost in 2013, Mac Nichols, chairman of the Harrisonburg Republican Committee, believes that the party does not need a “wholesale paradigm shift.”
Factors beyond the ticket’s control hurt it, he said, most notably the partial federal government shutdown and “unfortunate” turmoil from then-Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, accepting undisclosed gifts from a company doing business with the state.
“I don’t see it,” Nichols said of the party’s candidates being too far to the right.
Neither does Jackson, but before he attempts another run at politics, he wants an answer to how a “Bible-believing Christian” can work through today’s political climate.
“I’m not a caricature, but a caricature of me was portrayed,” he said. “Unfortunately, I think some Republicans lean more in the moderate than conservative direction, and instead of hearing [a controversial statement] or reading it with skepticism ... they are quick to say, ‘Oh, geez, this guy is way out there.’ That type of perception has to be addressed.
“I’m still very much in the fight.”
Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or firstname.lastname@example.org