August 30, 2004

Topsy Turvy

by PG

American politics get stranger by the day. Today, a Republican congressman from Virginia withdrew from his re-election race because of claims that he is gay; and a state appeals court closed the race of Lousiana congressman, who switched from Democrat to Republican 15 minutes before the deadline, to any new entrants.

Frankly, Rep. Ed Schrock's decision to drop his candidacy comes across as an admission that the allegations, pushed by, are true. Otherwise, wouldn't he stick around and fight it out?

On the other hand, I also see why any breath of "scandal" about Schrock's sexual orientation would be detrimental regardless of its truthfulness. Andrew Sullivan notes that the 2nd District includes Regents University, but perhaps more to the point in terms of voting strength, it includes the Norfolk naval base -- the largest in the world (and as many UVa friends from the area told me, the second target on the USSR's list in case of war). Shrock himself is a retired career Navy officer and Vietnam veteran, and as a freshman congressman landed a seat on the House Armed Services Committee.

Like Milbarge, I'm opposed to "outing," particularly for political purposes. While there is nothing shameful about being queer (i.e. of an identification other than strictly heterosexual), this does not mean that people's personal feelings are aligned with this objective truth. Perhaps Schrock's parents, siblings, wife, son and Baptist church would think less of him if they knew that he was gay, so he has a right not to disclose that information.

And of course, Schrock may not be gay at all, in which case has succeeded in causing him and his loved ones enormous emotional distress. People have committed suicide over less, and if Schrock makes such an attempt, putting the blame on Michael Rogers seems unavoidable.

U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander of Lousiana's 5th District, however, should feel ashamed of himself. A longtime Democrat, Alexander filed to run for re-election as a Democrat on August 4, then two days later, just before the deadline, refiled as a Republican. Two days! There's a longer waiting period to purchase a firearm.

Alexander's campaign website hasn't even been updated to reflect his abrupt change in partisan allegiance. True, the signs probably were there in his biography: "Rodney, a pro-life, pro-2nd Amendment Democrat, is an active member of the Blue Dog Coalition, and serves as a conservative voice in the Democratic Party in Congress."

But local Democrats still seem shocked, and the Republican candidate isn't too happy either. Former state Rep. Jock Scott now faces GOP pressure to drop out of the race, and he joined with the underdog Democratic candidate to have Alexander thrown off the ballot. Ah, bipartisanship! So rare in this election season, and as it turns out, so futile.

But the [1st Circuit] appeals court judges expressed some skepticism over that argument, and about the case itself, with one judge suggesting it had more to do with politics than with the law. Another wondered why Alexander shouldn't appear as both a Republican and a Democrat on the Nov. 2 ballot, and a third asked whether the Secretary of State couldn't simply put him on the ballot with no party affiliation.
To be clear, there were two issues in this case: whether the ballot should be reopened to permit other candidates to run (which the Democratic Party wanted to do, presumably to field a stronger candidate than unknown Zelma Blakes); and whether Alexander should be permitted to stay in the race at all. The lower court had ruled to allow new candidates, but the appeals court overturned that decision to freeze the current slate of candidates. No one else can join the ballot, and Alexander can stay on it.

All in all, a scurvy business. Alexander was fundraising earlier in the year as a Democrat, and his abrupt switch appears almost calculated to disable them -- particularly with his prodigal son-like appearance at the Republican National Convention this morning, and his absence last month from the Democratic National Convention. Indeed, one of the parties to the suit to have Alexander erased from the ballot was Democratic voter Jeremy Lacombe. Lacombe's lawyer said he would not appeal, but Blakes and Scott may choose to go all the way to the Louisiana Supreme Court. Because the dispute centers on state election codes, an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is unlikely; I can't think of a federal violation that can be claimed.

August 30, 2004 09:46 PM | TrackBack

Let's get something--uh--straight. Schrock isn't gay. He is a straight man--married with children--who apparently sought homosexual liaisons on the side. His seeking homo-sex doesn't make him gay. It makes him a stright man who--given his anti-gay voting record--is a hypocrit.

Shades of Robert Bauman.

Posted by: raj at August 31, 2004 07:07 AM

In a remake of Casablanca, I can imagine the Inspector (Claude Rains) telling Rick (Humphrey Bogart) "I'm Schrok-ed!"

Posted by: Shag from Brookline at August 31, 2004 07:40 AM
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