Rev. Mark Harris, senior minister at Charlotte's First Baptist Church and a leader of last year's successful Amendment One anti-gay-marriage campaign, is telling his supporters today that he's running for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate. According to the Charlotte Observer, Harris, who is also president of the Baptist State Convention, will make an official announcement of his candidacy on October 2. Harris will run against N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis and Dr. Greg Brannon, with the winner facing U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan in November 2014.
Harris was famously photographed cupping his hand to his mouth and whooping it up at an election night victory party for the Amendment One campaign. At the time I wrote, "The image of a supposed religious leader joyfully rah-rahing that the state now blatantly denies equal rights to an entire segment of the population was, well, I hardly know where to start - shocking, embarrassing, ludicrous, nauseating. Take your pick, they all apply." And they still apply.
Harris, by most accounts, is a relatively affable guy, albeit full of himself, but the idea of the leader of the state's Baptists representing North Carolina in Washington makes me pretty nervous, not to say horrified.
Knowing that he was a force behind the marriage discrimination amendment, of course, makes his candidacy even more unpalatable to progressive North Carolinians. Harris is no doubt counting on the kind, religious folks who showed up in droves to stick it to the queers at the ballot box in 2012 - a result that showed the Protestant right's talent for getting its supporters to the polls. It's hard to beat a well-oiled religious prejudice machine.
In view of the current far-right General Assembly's plummeting poll numbers, however - a drop that came after North Carolinians got a look at the kinds of laws the GOP's wingnuts rammed through the legislature - Harris should expect plenty of pushback if he wins the nomination. Voters should not forget that Harris aligned himself with one of the most openly bigoted, irrational and repugnant political campaigns in the state's history, which is really saying something in Jesse Helms' old stomping grounds. The Amendment One campaign spectacle, in which people who claim allegiance to Biblical wisdom nearly wet themselves over the chance to smack around a minority group they hate for no good reason, is something Harris needs to be reminded of, and asked about, if he ends up running against Hagan. Harris' role in leading such a hateful ballot initiative - and what it foreshadows for North Carolina in case he joins the U.S. Senate - should be topic No. 1 for members of the press that will cover his efforts between now and the election.
Brilliant show as usual. Can't wait till they return to Charlotte.
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