During a Constitution Day Rally in Sterling Sept. 17 for GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, John Whitbeck, the chairman of Virginia's 10th Congressional District Republican Committee, offered the crowd what many are considering anti-Semitic remarks.Whitbeck refused to apologize for this joke, either for its bigotry, or for the fact that it simply wasn't funny. Rather, he was quite proud of it. And since he is a Republican, he was rewarded by his party by nominating him to be their candidate in next week's crucial special election that will ultimately determine control of the Virginia state Senate!
Telling what he called a joke, Whitbeck said: "When the pope is elected, the head of the Jewish faith goes to the Vatican and brings a ceremonial piece of paper. It's very old and it dates back hundreds of years, and he comes into the pope's office and he ceremonially hands the piece of paper to the pope, the new pope. And then the new pope ceremonially rejects it. And the head of the Jewish faith leaves.
"Well, this time around, the pope said: 'I gotta find out what's on this piece of paper.' So he actually takes it from the head of the Jewish faith, he opens it and he looks at it, and he closes it ... and his Jewish counterpart says 'What was it?' And he says, 'Well, that was the bill for the Last Supper.' "
The election, to fill newly (and narrowly) elected Attorney General Mark Herring's vacant 33rd District, is huge because Democrats need to hold this seat in order to maintain a 20-20 balance in the state Senate. If they do, newly elected Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam will be able to break ties in favor of the Democrats. And that in turn means that Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who won office last year on an explicitly liberal platform, will have more leverage over the GOP-controlled state House.
To their credit, Democrats skipped nominating an asshole bigot, and went with "competence" and "credible" instead: former prosecutor Jennifer Wexton. Like McAuliffe, she's embraced an openly progressive platform. And when she ran TV ads pledging to fight as hard against conservative efforts to roll back women's reproductive freedoms as she did to put sex offenders in jail, Republicans flipped out, so you know she's doing something right.
This race is also a great showcase for how the split between establishment Republicans and their tea party nemeses is causing so much grief for the party. When the local GOP prepared to tap Whitbeck in December, that infuriated a mainstream Republican, state Delegate Joe May, who had just lost a primary to a conservative true believer earlier that year. So May decided to run as an independent, driving a huge wedge into the Republican electorate.
But just because May and Whitbeck are duking it out doesn't mean Wexton will cruise. Just last week, in another critical special election for Northam's 11th District seat, Democrats hung on by a mere nine votes, in a blue district that Barack Obama won with 57 percent of the vote.
Obama also carried the 33rd, with 59 percent, but as we've seen time and time again, so many of our voters just don't want to show up at the polls when there isn't a presidential race on the ballot. That's why it's so important we help Wexton in the final week of this race. Democrats were very lucky to prevail in last week's special. We don't want to lose this one by an equally tiny margin.
So even if it's just $3, chip in and let's keep the Virginia Senate blue.