In what some political observers are calling an ironic twist, the Tea Party-backed Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Delaware, who once headed a group that called for curing homosexuality through prayer, is expected to help Democrats retain control of the Senate.
Christine O’Donnell has a record of so many odd and quirky views, including outspoken opposition to masturbation and alleged campaign finance irregularities that she is expected to lose a Senate race that the moderate GOP candidate she defeated in the Sept. 14 primary was certain to win.
That’s the assessment of both Republican and Democratic political analysts, who say O’Donnell is perceived as being outside the political mainstream and far too conservative for a moderate state like Delaware.
Gay Democratic activist Peter Schott, who heads the statewide LGBT group Delaware Stonewall Democrats, said his group will work hard to turn out LGBT voters and their straight allies to vote for Democratic nominee Chris Coons in the Senate race.
“We will not take anything for granted,” Schott said. “The key will be getting a good Democratic turnout and motivating the voters.”
Schott pointed to Delaware’s 2008 U.S. Senate election in which O’Donnell, who ran against then Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden, came within less than 300 votes of beating Biden in Sussex County, the Delaware shore area that includes Rehoboth Beach, where large numbers of gays live and vacation.
Biden soundly defeated O’Donnell by a statewide margin of 65 percent to 35 percent. His win came at a time when Delaware’s election law allowed him to run for re-election to the Senate at the same time his name was on the ballot as Barack Obama’s vice presidential running mate.
Biden resigned from the Senate after winning the vice presidency.
O’Donnell stunned the nation’s political establishment by defeating Republican Congressman Michael Castle in Delaware’s Republican primary last week. Her support from the Tea Party movement and an endorsement by Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate, have been credited with helping her secure what most viewed as an upset victory over Castle.
Coons has expressed support for LGBT equality both as a Senate candidate and in his current role as the Castle County, Del., executive. He has been endorsed by Delaware Stonewall Democrats and the Human Rights Campaign.
Castle was considered the overwhelming favorite to win the Delaware Senate seat in the general election in November. A Castle victory was expected to provide the seat needed to enable Republicans to take control of the Senate. With the Delaware seat now expected to go to Coons, Republicans are unlikely to take control of the Senate.
O’Donnell’s record of opposition to LGBT rights surfaced in the 1990s, when she founded an organization called Savior’s Alliance for Lifting the Truth, or SALT. Literature posted on the group’s website stated its mission was to “encourage young people to live a life of chastity.” Under O’Donnell’s direction, the group linked homosexuality to “sexual brokenness” that it said could be cured through prayer.
In statements made while heading the group, O’Donnell denounced masturbation as a form of adultery.
Prior to her involvement with SALT, O’Donnell appeared on a television talk show hosted by comedian and commentator Bill Mahr in which she boasted of having been involved in witchcraft. In an appearance on the Fox News Network this week O’Donnell attributed her dabbling in witchcraft to a youthful indiscretion while in high school.
In subsequent years, while taking on the role of a conservative political commentator, she questioned the use of government funds for AIDS programs. She also emerged as an outspoken opponent of legalized abortion and government funding for stem cell research.
During the Clinton administration in the 1990s, she spoke out against President Clinton’s nomination of gay philanthropist and businessman James Hormel for the post of ambassador to Luxemburg, accusing Hormel of having “ties to the pedophile rights movement.” Hormel called the allegation a complete fabrication.