If a fellow political activist were to tell me on the morning of the Virginia Republican convention that E. W. Jackson would be the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, I would have been highly skeptical. Not only did he finish with a rather dismal 4.72% in his last election, the 2012 Senate Republican primary, but also his campaign had fallen significantly behind in fundraising totals when compared to most of his six rivals. And, as a result, his staff suffered an important loss. Originally, I had predicted that Mr. Jackson would not pass the first ballot at the convention. However, after seeing a considerable swell in grassroots support in the days leading up to the convention, I didn’t think it too unreasonable for him to survive into the second round. He was successful in capturing the hearts and minds of a significant number of my fellow delegates, especially those from Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. However, Jackson not only led on the first ballot, but also led in each successive ballot until he won the nomination. He performed exceedingly well among religious conservatives, who turned out to Richmond in surprisingly large numbers.
Many Republicans, myself included, quickly dismissed the idea of a Jackson victory in November. After the results for the third ballot were announced at the convention, where Jackson’s nomination was all but a certainty, I leaned over to a fellow delegate and remarked that the GOP had conceded the lieutenant governor race. Now why would anyone make this claim? Well, beside last year’s electoral drumming and continued fundraising difficulties, Bishop Jackson has a history of untempered speech. Over the years, E.W. Jackson has made a considerable number of controversial statements, ones that I certainly wouldn’t make if running for public office, and many that I think are needlessly inflammatory and/or happen to disagree. It is profoundly difficult for such a galvanizing lightning rod, like Jackson, to win the independent vote.
So is the Jackson campaign quixotic? It’s easy to think so, as many in the establishment seem to have written him off as politically dead. However, I have noticed an unusual spark as of late. Many of these same delegates who attended the convention are donating significant time and money to assist the Jackson campaign. Given that both his funding and name identification are lower than they ought to be, across the state his volunteers, in conjunction with the campaign, are organizing gatherings and fundraisers at homes, businesses, and at universities (as is the case in Harrisonburg). Although supporting the entire ticket, they walk their neighborhoods to primarily promote this unique candidate called E.W. Jackson. They seem to comprehend an important concept, that electoral victory is not achieved simply by being correct in one’s principles, but through continued hard work and dedication. Truly, any campaign would be blessed to have such a dedicated core of support.
Whether you are an E.W. Jackson fan or not, it is undeniable that he faces a tremendous uphill battle in the upcoming months. Yes, the smart money says that the Democratic nominee, Ralph Northam, will win in a landslide. Nevertheless, the Jackson supporters are motivated, organized, and, most importantly, active. Can they pull off a November upset? At this point, it is unlikely…but not impossible.