By Tim Whyte
Her voice was bright and cheery.
“Hi! I’m calling on behalf of a nonpartisan evangelical group and we’re doing a 31-city bus tour to encourage people to vote for candidates whose positions are consistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ.”
Oh boy. I’m not overly religious, and I assumed this was some kind of right-wing group. I settled in for the proselytizing and wondered how long it would be before I heard “Roe vs. Wade” come out of her mouth.
“We’re coming to Santa Clarita next week to hold a rally in support of a candidate for the 25th Congressional District,” she said. “Katie Hill.”
My jaw hit the floor. I’d been bracing myself for the pro-life lecture. Evangelical Christians? Rallying for Katie Hill?
“Gotta be an alternate universe,” I thought to myself.
“You guys are nonpartisan, right?”
“Absolutely!” she replied, sounding as upbeat and perky as your favorite Disney character.
“So,” I asked, “out of the 31 cities you are visiting on your bus tour, how many of the candidates you’re supporting are Democrats and how many of them are Republicans?”
“Oh, they’re all Democrats,” she said.
Apparently Jesus wants the House to flip.
“But you told me you were nonpartisan. Supporting only the candidates of one political party is the very definition of partisanship. Isn’t honesty one of the teachings of Jesus Christ?”
Crickets. Long pause. “You might have a bit of a point there.”
But like a bird that flies into a sliding glass window, she collected herself and started flying again. She said the organization believes Donald Trump isn’t behaving in a very Christ-like manner.
Well. No argument there.
But neither is her organization, Vote Common Good. It turns out this is far from the grass-roots nonpartisan group she claimed it to be. In a scheme some media have dubbed “rent-an-evangelist,” Vote Common Good is part of an orchestrated, well-funded partisan effort to split the evangelical vote.
In two conversations, the Vote Common Good reps lied, misled or gave me false information three times. One, they aren’t nonpartisan, at least not in 2018. Two, they weren’t coming to Santa Clarita. The “Santa Clarita” church where they held their rally was in Mission Hills, in the 29th District, represented by Democrat Tony Cardenas. (OK, that could have been a mistake. But still.)
Then another: The second time they called, I asked if Katie Hill was attending the rally on Halloween night. “Absolutely!” came the enthusiastic reply.
Here’s the thing. I’d already been told Hill wasn’t planning to attend. (According to her Facebook page, she spent Halloween night doing some phone banking while wearing rather awesome zombie makeup. I may not agree with her politics, but Katie, major props on the zombie look…)
Democrat Christy Smith, running for the 38th Assembly District, did show up for the rally. But both Hill and Smith should get the benefit of the doubt: Just because Vote Common Good provided false information about the organization’s background, purpose and the location of their rally, does not mean Hill and Smith were in cahoots with or participating in those things. I believe they were not. Sometimes, when you’re running for office, people who support you do things that are out of your control, and you shouldn’t get blamed for them.
As I write this (Sunday’s deadline is Thursday), Rep. Steve Knight is going through something like that, but admittedly much more serious: His campaign ran a TV commercial featuring a veteran for whom Knight helped cut VA red tape to get a lung transplant. Turns out the veteran has a disgusting track record of racist, bigoted posts on social media.
Knight’s people didn’t properly vet the vet before featuring him in the commercial. Big mistake. It blew up in their faces, prompting media coverage, and once he knew what had happened, Knight told The Signal that he ordered the ads to be stopped.
The two situations are very different, but the slight parallel is, I think it’s important that we avoid taking leaps of logic. Helping a veteran get a lung transplant doesn’t mean Knight shares that veteran’s bigotry, nor does the support from Vote Common Good mean Hill and Smith are in favor of the organization’s disingenuous tactics.
Regardless… Vote Common Good has bigger problems than some small-town newspaper editor’s column. After all: If I know they misrepresented themselves, so does Jesus.
Tim Whyte is editor of The Signal. His column appears Sundays.