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Outspoken GOP nomine strikes softer tone on stump

South Boston News
Jackson
SoVaNow.com / July 17, 2013
Republican candidate for lieutenant governor E.W. Jackson brought his campaign to South Hill aiming to dispel criticism from political opponents that he is too extreme to hold statewide office.

Jackson, a Chesapeake minister, former Marine and Harvard Law graduate, received a warm reception from a handful of Republican faithful gathered in South Hill Tuesday morning. He drew on a message of overcoming personal hardship and how the experience has helped to form his current moral and political beliefs.

Drawing on his evangelical background, Jackson told of how despite his early life in the foster care system, using drugs and as a gang member, he has always believed in the greatness of America. It is a belief reinforced by the checkered past of his father, who was absent during long portions of Jackson’s childhood and fell in and out of work, sometimes living the life of a hobo.

Despite these difficulties, Jackson said his father benefited from the inherent goodness of the American people — and their willingness to share and help someone who was down and out, regardless of their own circumstances or race. At the same time, Jackson continued, his father concluded that his self-worth, and that of every American, is tied to one’s ability to provide for oneself, by accepting a hand up, not a hand out.

Summing up his own belief system, Jackson said: “If you don’t reach for anything, you’ll get nothing.”

The personal testimony continues the recent softened tone of Jackson’s campaign after he received the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor at the party’s statewide convention in May. Previously, Jackson gained notoriety for making harshly critical anti-gay and anti-abortion statements, and comparing President Obama to the Antichrist.

He has described gays as “very sick people psychologically and mentally and emotionally” and liberal abortion policy as “infanticide.” He also has drawn criticism for saying Planned Parenthood has been “far more lethal” to African-Americans than the KKK.

Prior to gaining the lieutenant governor nomination, Jackson had little success in electoral politics. He last ran in the 2012 Republican U.S. Senate primary, finishing well back in the field behind eventual nominee George Allen with four percent of the vote.

He is running for lieutenant governor against Democratic candidate Ralph Northam, a Norfolk state senator. The general election is Nov. 5.

During his talk in South Hill yesterday, Jackson quickly covered his core moral beliefs, because, he said, the media has spent more than enough time “on my social stands. Yes, I am pro-life. I believe if you don’t get that right how can you get anything right.” He also believes that marriage can only be between one man and one woman, and that rights and freedoms are inviolable.

But he also said that while his positions on social issues are fixed and based on his religious beliefs, he knows that as an elected official and a lawyer, his views are secondary to his need to follow and uphold the laws of Virginia.

“As a minister, it is my duty to teach people the word of God, not the political implications of those words. As Lt. Governor, my job is to serve the people according to the laws and Constitution of the State. But that does not mean there are two different moral or ethical standards,” Jackson said.

In response to a question asking why he and the other members of the GOP ticket do not campaign together, Jackson replied, “We” — meaning he and Republican Attorney General candidate Mark Obenshain — “are taking our lead from Mr. [Ken] Cuccinelli [the gubernatorial candidate]. He feels that the best way we can blanket the state with our message is to campaign separately.”

He assured the audience that “all is well from my perspective,” and that he, Cuccinelli and Obenshain “are united in our positions.”

Before opening the floor to questions, Jackson quickly ran through his views on other issues. He said he supports school choice and the money should follow the student. He believes the state, not the federal government, should determine whether to allow drilling for oil and gas and coal mining. He also said he believes that states have a duty to stop the encroachment of the federal government in areas best left to the sovereign states.

When asked if he would oppose lifting the ban on uranium mining in Virginia, Jackson responded: “It is a local issue. If the people of the Southside do not want mining and if the science and technology do not persuade them that mining can be done safely, then it should not be allowed. I would never vote against the will of the people.”

Jackson closed by reciting the lyrics to the final verse of “My Country Tis of Thee” saying these words “capture who we are.”

Later in the day, he continued his campaign through Southside Virginia with a stopover in South Boston.

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