TOO FAR? Conservatives say a campaign ad by Jennifer Wexton, Democratic candidate for the 33rd Senate District, went too far.
By Kathryn Watson | Watchdog.org, Virginia Bureau
ALEXANDRIA — An ad from a Democratic candidate for Senate makes a controversial comparison, and conservatives aren’t happy about it.
Jennifer Wexton, running for Northern Virginia’s 33rd Senate District, ran this campaign ad at the start of the New Year. Did she go too far?
“A woman assaulted at night by the reservoir,” the 33-second ad begins. “Another by an intruder who forced his way in through her bedroom window. And for so many traumatized again by facing the criminal in court.
“I’m Jennifer Wexton, and as a prosecutor, I put violent offenders in prison,” Wexton says, appearing on screen. “In the Virginia Senate, I’ll fight just as hard against tea party Republicans who would take away a woman’s health care and her right to choose, even in cases of rape and incest. On election day, help me stand up for her.”
Wexton — a Leesburg lawyer who is trying to help Democrats take control of the State Senate in a special election Jan. 21 — has given conservatives in the blue-leaning Northern Virginia district a flashpoint to ignite their base.
“I think a prosecutor that is not capable of distinguishing between a rapist or a true criminal, and a citizen exercising their constitutional rights of free assembly, as is allowed in the Constitution, is not fit for office,” John Jaggers, a spokesman for the Northern Virginia Tea Party, told Watchdog.org. “If you can’t distinguish free speech from crime, then how is it that you’re qualified to be a state senator and make laws if you don’t understand the primary law of the land?”
‘We’re sitting here talking about something horrific and comparing it to political opponents, for just the mere political purpose,” said Ron Wilcox, founder of the Northern Virginia Tea Party. “The thing is, you’ve got to wonder what kind of person thinks it’s a good idea to compare someone’s political opposition to a rapist.”
Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney Lisa Caruso had even stronger words for Wexton.
“I’ve spent my entire career fighting to put people who prey on women behind bars,” Caruso said in a statement. “I’ve seen the kind of sick, unrepentant predators that commit rape firsthand. To compare your political opponents to monsters like that is simply repugnant, and offensive to women who have suffered through that horrible trauma.”
Wexton’s video spurred talk on Twitter, too:
Wexton’s campaign hasn’t responded to the criticism, and the ad remains on her homepage. Representatives for her campaign failed to respond to Watchdog.org’s request for comment. The Loudon County Democratic Committee didn’t respond, either.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia and NARAL Pro-Choice of Virginia, both of which have endorsed Wexton, didn’t immediately respond for comment, either.
Wexton is campaigning to replace Sen. Mark Herring, who will take an oath Saturday to become the state’s first Democratic attorney general in two decades. The race matters to Republicans and Democrats. If Republicans can gain even one seat held by Democratic Sens. Ralph Northam and Herring, they gain control of the now evenly split Senate. But if Democrats keep their seats, Northam, as lieutenant governor, will have a tie-breaking vote in the Senate.
Wexton’s opponents are Joe May, formerly a Republican Virginia Delegate who lost his primary and is running for the Senate as an independent, and John Whitbeck, chairman of Northern Virginia’s 10th Congressional District Republican Committee.
— Kathryn Watson is an investigative reporter for Watchdog.org’s Virginia Bureau, and can be reached at email@example.com.