Nearly 8,000 Virginia Republican officeholders and activists gathered Saturday at the Greater Richmond Convention Center to select the party's candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. The result is one of the most conservative candidate slates in recent memory.
The Republicans at Saturday's closed party convention – rather than a statewide primary, which likely would have diluted some of the right-leaning participation – selected Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a tea party supporter and conservative firebrand who has been the presumptive nominee for the past year, for governor. Conservative minister E.W. Jackson secured the spot for lieutenant governor, and state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg, Rockingham, Rappahannock, Warren, Page and Shenandoah counties) became the party's attorney general candidate.
Ken Cuccinelli and E.W. Jackson
All three positions are up for election in November, in addition to 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates.
Each of the nominees has a long history of anti-LGBT animus.
As attorney general, one of Cuccinelli's first actions was to issue a letter advising the state's public colleges and universities that state laws and policies prohibit including sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression in nondiscrimination policies, and that policies containing such protections are ''invalid.'' He also pressured – with varying success – the State Board of Social Services the State Board of Juvenile Justice to remove pro-LGBT language from regulations.
A vocal opponent of marriage equality, Cuccinelli voted in favor of the Marshall-Newman Amendment to the Virginia Constitution, banning marriage equality, while serving as a state senator. He called homosexual acts ''intrinsically wrong'' during his 2009 campaign for attorney general. More recently, Cuccinelli filed a petition – which was rejected – to challenge application in Virginia of the U.S. Supreme Court's Lawrence v. Texas ruling that ended sodomy laws.
Jackson, a little-known conservative minister from Chesapeake who ran in the U.S. Senate primary against eventual Republican nominee, former governor and former Sen. George Allen (R) in 2012, is the head pastor of Exodus Faith Ministries and the founder and president of Staying True to America's National Destiny (STAND), a conservative nonprofit organization that describes itself as ''dedicated to preserving America's Judeo-Christian History and Values.''
According to Right Wing Watch, a project of People for the American Way, in October 2012 Jackson appeared on a radio show where he referred to gay people as ''perverted,'' ''degenerate,'' ''spiritually darkened'' and ''frankly very sick people, psychologically, mentally and emotionally.'' In that same interview, Jackson said homosexuality ''poisons culture, it destroys families, it destroys societies; it brings the judgment of God unlike very few things that we can think of.''
Jackson has also argued that gays seek to ''sexualize [children] at the earliest possible age,'' and has said there is a ''direct connection'' between homosexuality and pedophilia. He has also claimed homosexuality is ''killing black men by the thousands'' in response to a question about the HIV rate among black men who have sex with men; criticized last year's Republican presidential platform for not advocating for the reintroduction of ''Don't Ask, Don't Tell''; and has said that gay marriage is like ''spitting in the face of every Bible-believing Christian in America.''
Obenshain, while not as vocal as Cuccinelli or Jackson, also has an anti-gay legislative record. Obenshain recently earned a perfect score of 100 from the Family Foundation of Virginia, a conservative interest group, for voting according to their recommendations on ''pro-family'' legislation, including four LGBT-related issues. Obenshain voted against adding sexual orientation to Virginia's nondiscrimination policy in 2010, and against a similar measure this year to prohibit discrimination in public employment.