Randall Terry's GOP Insurgency Goes Down in Flames
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Sep 05, 2006 at 11:41:03 PM EST
Randall Terry, the erstwhile, demagogic leader of militant antiabortion mobs that illegally interfered with people entering medical clinics,  failed in Tuesday's GOP primary, to oust longtime incumbent Florida GOP State Sentor, Jim King.  In an election day press release, Terry's campaign claimed that "pundits" had called it a "bellwether race."  If so, what does it show? I think that it shows that longtime theocratic militants in business suits are not necessarily viable candidates for public office.  Maybe there are districts where it would be possible. But clearly not this conservative, Republican district in north Florida.
With about half of the precicts reporting, primary results show King burying Terry everywhere in the district. The Talahasseee Democrat reports:

And Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville, was leading national anti-abortion activist Randall Terry in his bid to keep his District 8 seat. Early results in Duval County showed - with 39 of 81 precincts reporting - that King had 68.83 percent of the vote. Terry had 31.17 percent.

Results in Nassau County had King leading Terry by almost a three-to-one margin. And in St. Johns County, King was leading Terry by a two-to-one margin. In Flagler County it was a little closer, but King still held a sizeable lead. In Volusia County, King had almost twice as many votes as Terry with 17 of 19 precincts reporting.

Terry, who in recent years served as a paid spokesperson for the Schindler family, (parents of Terri Schiavo), epitomizes the efforts of theocratic militants to suit-up and attempt to go mainstream.  

It is worth noting who rallied to Terry's failed campaign: longtime militant activist Gary McCullough, who in the 90s served as a spokesman for Paul Hill who first justified the murder of abortion providers, and later murdered one himself. McCullough, also served a point man for fundraising for imprisoned antiabortion terrorists affiliated with Army of God. Terry was also aided by Fr. Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life, and far-right perennial candidate, Alan Keyes.

The Terry and his allies have often been written about by those of us who follow the politics of the religious right. Moiv reported that Pavone considered Terry's race against King to be "one of the most important in the nation."  Jonathan Hutson had previously detailed McCullough's justification of religious violence.

Rejected by GOP primary voters by a margin of 2-1, it would appear that Terry has little future in electoral politics -- at least as a Republican.  He was previously a candidate for Congress from New York on the ticket of the openly theocratic Constitution Party. Terry, like ousted Alabama Supreme Court judge Roy Moore; Alan Keyes, and Pavone, are part of a faction of the GOP that is perennially teetering on the edge of abandoning the GOP for the Constitution Party.  One of the pioneering strategists of the modern conservative movement in the 1970s sought to go third party when times got tough for the GOP. This year Richard Viguerie is calling for movement conservatives to back-off, but stopped just short of jumping ship.

The conservative movement is deeply divided over the many non-conservative aspects of the contemporary GOP. Conservatives are unhappy over the unjustified war in Iraq; the expanding federal budget deficeit; the crass cronyism and corrpuption of the GOP establishment epitomized by the Jack Abramoff scandal, and they have been embarrassed into silence by the greed and hypocrisy of their one time posterboy, Ralph Reed.  

Reed himself went down to a bone-crushing defeat for the GOP nomination for Lt. Governor of Georgia, effectively ending a once promising political career.   Along the way, politial desperation led the antiabortion, antigay rights conservative Christian Reed, to risk accusations of hypocrisy by bringing in the prochoice, progayrights former Republican mayor of New York City, Rudy Guiliani to shore-up his foundering campaign.

It remains to be seen whether the religious right is actually suffering serious set-backs, or whether these are actually examples of the movement maturing, shaking-out, and moving beyond figures like Reed and Terry, whose time has come and gone.

to read the electoral defeats of Ralph Reed and Randall Terry as the death of the religious right. But let's not fall to the temptation of glib punditry.  

These races are far more interesting and complex than that.  There are definitely political opportunities here, but premature prognostications of the death of the religious right will close off any consideration of the possibilities.

by Frederick Clarkson on Wed Sep 06, 2006 at 12:07:47 AM EST

Ralph Reed's political advocacy for gambling and Randall Terry's divorce and excommunication, plus his one-trick-pony nature, were the problems. Slick messengers, without scandal and with a pretense to comprehensive policy in addition to social conservative policy, will still be attractive.

by NancyP on Wed Sep 06, 2006 at 12:31:05 PM EST

Good advice but I'm still encouraged by this.  


I say we impeach Scalia.

by nofundy on Wed Sep 06, 2006 at 02:55:36 PM EST

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