If you look at the campaign that’s being run against Pete Gallego, it’s your basic, standard tea party deal: ‘The government would mess up a two-car parade, and God is on my side.’—President Bill Clinton, October 25, 2012
Three Times They Said NO TO GOD.—Campaign mailer from Congressman Francisco “Quico” Canseco on Pete Gallego and the national Democratic party
Last Thursday Bill Clinton turned on that old Clinton charm, which seems to work on everyone but his wife, to lend his support to Democratic state Rep. Pete Gallego in his congressional race. The 23rd Congressional District is roughly two-thirds Hispanic and stretches from San Antonio to El Paso. Despite the best efforts of Republicans to redistrict minority Democrats right out of Texas—most notably Hispanic voters—incumbent congressman Francisco “Quico” Canseco has been targeted by Democrats since 2010 when he narrowly beat Ciro Rodriguez.
The key issues in the campaign—Obamacare, the economy, energy, immigration and the DREAM Act, and that meddling EPA—have been rather predictable, given that this is a race between a tea party candidate and a fairly moderate Democrat. But some things you just can’t predict. Like, say, Jesus Christ taking time out of his busy schedule to endorse the incumbent.
It must have been a tough call since both candidates happen to be Catholic. But guided by his distorted version of faith Canseco decided to accuse his opponent of being a lapsed Catholic who embraces, if not encourages, abortions for young girls. A direct mail piece from Canseco’s campaign accused Gallego of “wanting to provide abortions for underage girls” (Gallego has voted for legislation requiring parental consent) and “wanting marriage to be between man and man” (Gallego supports civil unions but not same-sex marriage). The controversial mailer even featured an image of Jesus Christ, not that those heathen Democrats would recognize him. Canseco’s campaign manager Scott Yeldell went on to accuse Gallego of “acting like he stands up for the faith he abandoned years ago.” Seriously. Can we get some confirmation on Gallego’s Sunday mass attendance record and tithing? (As a fellow Catholic I’m more than familiar with the church’s teachings and its lack of patience for wayward parishioners.)
As a self-described devout Catholic we can only assume Canseco takes his moral cues from the Ten Commandments when he’s not consulting his stigmata. The second commandment forbids taking the name of the Lord your God in vain. Which probably doesn’t allow for slapping Jesus Christ on your hate mail. The mailer also breaks the eighth commandment, bearing false witness against your neighbor. I’ll give Canseco the benefit of the doubt and say he keeps amendments four through six. I can’t speak to the remaining five.
Responding to the mailers and Canseco’s many allegations, Gallego released a statement saying, “I have never seen a campaign use what to many of us is a beloved and holy image in such a crass and disrespectful manner.” But then this entire campaign season has been nothing if not crass and disrespectful. Gallego should take comfort in the fact that two members of the Holy Trinity are still undecided.
Could questioning someone’s Catholic cred really be an effective campaign tactic in a predominantly Hispanic district? Probably not. According to a new study on the Catholic vote conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Hispanic Catholics and other Catholic minorities have consistently voted Democratic. In the 2008 election 72 percent of Hispanic Catholics voted for President Obama. Attacking your Democratic challenger’s Catholic faith seems like a long shot and maybe even an act of desperation. On social issues the study also found that Hispanic Catholics express more support than opposition to same-sex marriage while they are evenly split regarding abortion. They also prefer big government and more government services, which could help Gallego considering that Canseco doesn’t even try to mask his disdain for the government, even while he serves in it.
Unless Gallego is caught covertly worshipping in a Methodist church in the next week, this race will remain a toss-up. Not surprisingly the most recent polls, one conducted by the League of Conservation Voters on behalf of the Gallego campaign and one conducted internally by the Canseco campaign, have come up with wildly different results. Depending on which one you believe, Gallego is either up by five points or Canseco is up by 10 points. We’ll know soon enough who the Catholic swing voters decided to support.