Jason Stanford, 9/7/2014 [Archive]

The Craziest Congressional Candidate in America

By Jason Stanford

All politics is local, and sometimes it's loco. In Texas, our most abundant resource is ludicrous politicians (see also: Gohmert, Louie), but as much as it pains me to admit it, the craziest congressional candidate this year comes from California where Carl DeMaio is in a tight race to become the latest lunatic in the asylum we all call Congress.

There are tons of candidates running around with their crazypants falling down about their ankles. There's the one in Illinois who blames tornadoes on gay rights. And preacher Jodi Hice, who will represent a rural Georgia district, thinks homosexuality "enslaves" gays and lesbians. It's usually the "blame the gays" with these folks, which might get folks to talking if they weren't such good Christians.

DeMaio is not a fringe candidate, and he's running in one of the few swing districts in the country, this one located in San Diego. The incumbent, Scott Peters, is one of the 10 most-vulnerable congressmen in the country largely because, well, he's a Democrat, and his voters can't be counted on to show up. The Rothenberg Political Report calls this race a true "toss-up," which means the campaigns, parties, and super PACs will probably spend more than $3 million on this one race before Election Day.

DeMaio also differs in an important way from those fringe candidates who blame gay people for the weather. For one thing, in San Diego they don't have weather, just perfectly temperate sunshine. For another, DeMaio is gay. If elected, he could be the only openly gay Republican in Congress, and if his being gay has any effect on the local weather, every chamber of commerce in America is going to want a gay congressman.

But being gay is about the least weird thing about DeMaio, just as being black is no big news these days. What would be weird is if a black candidate supported segregation, which is the best way to describe DeMaio's stance on gay rights. Long story short, he's not for them.

When it comes to civil rights for gays and lesbians, DeMaio's a mass of walking contradictions. He once gay-baited a straight opponent in the 2012 mayoral race. Recently, he appeared in a campaign commercial with his boyfriend. But he tells LGBT groups that their civil rights are a "social issue" and have no place in politics. With all that, he acts offended when gays don't rally to his side.

"I've found more tolerance, acceptance and inclusion from social conservative groups who have to reconcile that I'm a Republican who happens to be gay... versus the intolerance the LGBT leaders see me as a gay man who happens to be a Republican," DeMaio said.

But that's not what's weird about him. You might think it's that time when a city council colleague caught him masturbating in a city hall bathroom in 2009, but whose thoughts haven't turned to love when hearing those magical words, "this city council session stands in recess?" That's not it.

No, what is truly weird about DeMaio is his model for good governance. His district is evenly split between Democrats, Republicans, and independents, and California Republicans are a tolerant if not moderate lot. But when asked in 2013 how he thought a junior congressman could make a difference, he cited Texas' Ted Cruz as his model.

"Take a look at what Ted Cruz is doing," DeMaio told a tea party audience. "He's a freshman senator. He's certainly creating a lot of stir. So I do believe one individual can make a difference. And it's a question of whether you're willing to stand your ground."

These days, being a tea party gay Republican who puts his boyfriend in an ad and then back into the closet is unusual, but thinking Cruz is an example of how to get something done in DC? That's downright aberrant.

Congratulations, Carl DeMaio, you're the weirdest congressional candidate in America. If you get any more successful, Rick Perry will probably go out to California and offer you tax incentives to move to Texas. But if Cruz is your model on what to do in Washington, there's probably no chance of that, now is there?

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©Copyright 2014 Jason Stanford, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Jason Stanford is a regular contributor to the Austin American-Statesman, a Democratic consultant and a Truman National Security Project partner. You can email him at stanford@oppresearch.com and follow him on Twitter @JasStanford.

This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.

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