Oct 262010

One of the signs that a minority group in the USA is starting to gain acceptance in mainstream society is when members are elected to political office.  Elected officials need to persuade a majority of voters that they are appropriately qualified and can responsibly carry out the job.  Voters need to be able to identify with the politician, and more importantly, be convinced that politician understands them and and has similar values.  Although poorly executed, Christine O’Donnell’s ad “I am you” is a good example of a candidate trying to create that vital sense of compatibility between candidate and voter.  In the past few years the Pagan community has seen the re-election of a Hellenion Alderwoman in Missouri, the election of a Theodish New York City Councilman, and a few other Pagans who have run for office with varying degrees of success.

Candidate Erin Lale, photo credit: www.myspace.com/erinlale

This interview, the first of a three part series, is with Nevada State Assemble District 29 candidate Erin Lale. Ms Lale, known in the Pagan community as a cinematographer and author, is running on the Libertarian ticket.  She has picked up several prominent endorsements such as the Fraternal Order of Police, Las Vegas Lodge and the local Tea Party group.  Pagan+politics spoke with Lale about politics, religion, and the challenges inherent in running as a third Party candidate.

Why did you decide to run for office? I originally got into the Assembly 29 race to help out my Party. The Libertarian Party has to poll a certain percentage of the vote every year or they’ll lose ballot access. And I also wanted to attract a new demographic to the Party. I didn’t realize the race was winnable until right after the official filing last spring, when my Republican opponent met with me to try to get me to drop out. I realized I was being perceived as a credible threat. So of course I stepped up my campaign and started trying to actually win. I’ve gotten a lot of positive attention and a lot of good press and media coverage, and I was actually ahead in the polls right before the election spending season started in October; since I’m not being funded by corporations I can’t match my opponents’ advertising budgets. There are two weeks left, so we’ll see what happens.

Did concern over how your religion would be received, as evidenced by the rough treatment Dan Halloran was subjected to during his campaign last year, cause you to hesitate before throwing your hat into the ring? No, I never thought religion would be an issue, and it hasn’t been. The only people who care that I’m heathen are other heathens and pagans.

What has been the reaction to your religion during the campaign? The Tea Party group that endorsed me, Action is Brewing, formerly known as Anger is Brewing, has actually read the Pagan Politics blog entry about me where they are mentioned, and they have assured me that what religion someone is has never mattered to any Tea Party group they know of. The only time my religion is ever mentioned in the media in relation to my political campaign is on heathen and pagan websites. Although of course, it’s all over the net other places in relation to my book, Asatru For Beginners, since I was on a book tour for it this summer. I was interviewed by Rolling Stone at a Tea Party event April 15, and I mentioned my religion in passing in introducing myself as “An openly bi heathen part Native American differently abled woman of size Libertarian”. They were interested in my pro-legalization of marijuana stance, but the article never ran.

You have been endorsed by a Tea Party group in Nevada. Many Pagans believe Tea Party groups are hostile towards Pagans and that the Tea Partys’ goals are counter to that of Pagans. What has been your experience, as an openly Pagan candidate, with Tea Party groups? The Tea Party movement is a protest group that wants small government and low taxes. Period. Various individual members, of course, have a wide range of other opinions and desires. You’ll find everyone from fundamentalist Christians to tie dye peace sign wearing pro-marijuana activists at a Tea Party event. They all come together to work toward a common goal of shrinking the size of government and having more freedom. That’s why the Tea Party movement is a good place for Libertarian candidates to look for voters. I was endorsed by Action is Brewing, formerly called Anger is Brewing, because I’m a fiscal conservative who wants to balance the state budget without raising taxes. The only two new taxes I am in favor of are a tax on legalized marijuana and a tax on legal brothels. The Tea Party movement doesn’t care how I worship, or what color my skin is, as long as I am for low taxes.

In previous coverage of your candidacy in Pagan media, some Pagans inferred that because you are both Heathen and endorsed by a Tea Party group you hold racist, homophobic, anti-minority views. Is it difficult to hear comments like that from within our religious community? All I can say is “Don’t judge me by the words on my label but by the content of my character.” Yes, that’s a paraphrase of the famous Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quote. I have fought against racism and sexism, and that’s actually the reason I don’t have a job right now. I stood up for equal pay. I ended up having to file a complaint with the EEOC for retaliation for complaining that white men with the same job title made more money than us, and ended up being unable to keep working in the technical position I had been working in. I don’t get unemployment, and I’ve been living off savings, which are now running out. But I’d do it again because it was the right thing to do, and because of me 200 other people got a pay raise and got to have fair pay. I won, despite losing my job, and that experience showed me that I can stand up for what’s right and win, and that’s one of the reasons I’ve had the confidence to run for office.

What are some of the main stances in your platform?

Slogan: Get government’s eyeball out of your window and its hand out of your pocket.

Policy positions:
NO new state income tax
NO new VAT tax
NO new grocery food tax
NO higher incorporation fees
NO higher construction permit fees
NO taking locally generated fee revenues (like sewage hookup fees) for the state general fund
NO weakening protections against eminent domain abuse
NO requiring internet based yard sales such as individual eBay sellers to buy expensive state sales tax permits
NO Miles Traveled tax
NO higher fuel taxes
YES to school choice and making every public school an empowerment school (which eliminates wasteful red tape)
YES full adult rights for all adults 18 and over (including drinking and gambling)
YES to extending Nevada’s legal brothel industry into the Las Vegas casino-resort corridor
YES to adding legal gay marriage to Nevada’s wedding industry
YES to ending marijuana prohibition
YES to legalizing microbusiness (a model proven to allow people to lift themselves out of poverty through entrepreneurship)
YES to privately operated toll roads instead of higher fuel taxes for new public highways
YES to removing artificial government barriers to good, affordable healthcare by allowing purchase of insurance across state lines and having independent practice for Nurse Practitioners
YES to open carry of arms and to recognizing other states’ concealed carry permits
YES to a total tax holiday for all new startup businesses in their first year

What is a “normal” day in the life of a candidate? Here’s an example of one of my days: 7:30am Green Alliance breakfast around 10am putting up door hangers or handing out flyers at the DMV or in front of the library noon lunch afternoon campaigning on the internet– announcing latest news on facebook, linkedin, myspace, twitter, press releases, writing blog entries, reading email, uploading photos and videos, doing a google search on my name to see what people are saying about me and if I’ve picked up any new endorsements 5pm Nurses Association candidate event (make a speech) 7pm League of Women Voters candidate event (make a speech and eat snacks) 10pm go home and curl up with Beni-Wan Cat-Obi. Next day do it all over again. Except on the weekend when there are usually 4 or 5 candidate events to go to, so I skip the internet.

You are running as third party candidate, do you feel the deck is stacked against 3rd party candidates? Yes, the deck is stacked against third party and independent candidates, in several ways: district boundary lines are drawn to protect incumbents; campaign finance laws favor incumbents (the winner of the election gets to keep unused campaign funds for next time and keep building up their war chest between elections, but losers by law in Nevada must close their campaign bank account and give away any unused campaign funds to charity or to other campaigns); corporate and union donors usually only give to Democrats and Republicans (my individual donations are running about even with what the incumbent did in the last election, but I only have individual donations, while she also gets corporate and union donations, so while I raise about $500 she raised $150,000 in the last election; we’ll have to wait til the election is over to see how much she raised this time. And that doesn’t even count the advertising bought for her by her party and by corporate, union, and special interest groups) so I can’t afford to do a big ad campaign; the traditional media, newspapers and TV, usually ignore third party candidates, although I got a really good interview in the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Voter Guide last Sunday, and I’m all over the internet and radio; some media, including not just internet radio shows but even broadcast TV, frankly email candidates promising news coverage if they buy advertising, and even more blatantly, local news channels — including publicly funded PBS!– refused to allow any candidate for governor who had not raised tens of thousands of dollars to participate in the televised debate; people have the attitude that the election is a horserace and they are supposed to bet on the winner, so voting one’s conscience to vote for a third party or independent candidate is somehow “wasting your vote”, and people think they should vote for the lesser of two evils instead of voting for what they believe in.

Three quarters of Pagans voted Democrat in the last Presidential election, which shows a strong tilt left within our religion. Yet many Pagans also say they have libertarian leanings, which can be seen as on the political Right. You are running as a Libertarian. Do you see yourself as politically Left or Right? As a Libertarian, I see myself as neither left nor right, but on a different axis entirely, the liberty versus statism axis. You can see a visual representation of that on the World’s Smallest Political Quiz on the Libertarian Party website. In fact, a recent poll showed about half of registered voters lean libertarian, so if we could overcome all problems with getting our message across that I talked about in the last question, we could win all over the country. And I think that the traditional media and traditional advertising are increasingly irrelevant in the age of the internet. The net is a game-changer. In the future, social networking, interest group forums, and search engines will be more powerful than snail mail ads and even more powerful than TV ads.

If people wished to assist you in your campaign, how could they do so? There are two ways to help my campaign, donate and spread the word. You know how to spread the word! To donate, please send donations via paypal to elale@cox.net or visit my fundraising page at http://www.stores.ebay.com/magicalrealistgallery

What advice do you have for other Pagans who are considering running for office? Advice for pagans running for office is the same advice I’d give anybody else running for office: This is a lot of work! I can’t imagine how people who have jobs have time to do all this. I guess candidates who have lots of money don’t have to work this hard, they use advertising instead of shoe leather.


Part two of this series, running this Thursday, features an interview with New York City Councilman Dan Halloran.

Sep 282010

Question:   At what point do you question what you know about Tea Party groups?

The first time they endorse and then stand by an openly Heathen candidate while the media (and, it is alleged, the opposing candidate) mocks his religion as they did with Dan Halloran?  After you read interviews with openly Pagan members of the Tea Party who have risen to leadership positions within their group?  Perhaps after you get a resounding “makes no difference to us” from the Delaware Tea Party groups while the rest of the country makes it plain with their response to O’Donnell that practicing witchcraft makes you political poison?  Or maybe now when an Nevada Tea Party group endorses another Heathen candidate, Erin Lale, author of the book Asatru For Beginners,  for State Assembly?

Candidate Erin Lale, photo credit: www.myspace.com/erinlale

May 31, 2010 – Erin Lale, candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 29, was endorsed by local Tea Party organization Anger is Brewing. Lale has also been endorsed by the LPN Vote Caucus, Liberty-Candidates.org, Gun Owners of Nevada, and the Fraternal Order of Police.

Lale plans to introduce legislation to define fees in Nevada law so fees collected for a specific purpose must be used for that purpose or given back to the taxpayers. Her plan to balance the state budget without a general tax increase is to end marijuana prohibition so the state can tax marijuana, spend $500 million less per year on prisons, free up police resources so we put more cops on the street without spending more money, bring parents back to the community which will help kids do better in school and break the cycle of poverty, have less gang violence, less border violence, and more tourist money in the local economy.

Lale is running against incumbent April Mastroluca, a Democrat. There is no primary in the District 29 race; no names will appear on the ballot for District 29 until the general election in November.

I’m not asking anyone to support the basic political aims of the Tea Party, but if you have held the view that the Tea Party is a rabidly Christian fundamentalist group hostile towards minority religions like Paganism, at what point do you re-evaluate that belief?  What does it say about Tea Party groups that they are embracing openly Pagan candidates and members, and doing so with so little drama?