Dan Halloran to Run for Congress, How Will Religion Impact the Race?

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  March 26, 2012 — 23 Comments

There had been rumblings for several days, and yesterday it was confirmed, that Republican New York City Councilman Dan Halloran will run for the newly created Sixth Congressional District. On Sunday, Halloran received the endorsement of the Queens County Republican Party, who called him “a proven vote getter and a strong voice for taxpayers, small businesses and seniors.” Halloran responded by saying that “it is time for politics to go for non-entrenched people,” and “we don’t need career politicians in Washington carving up the turf and making things worse.”

Dan Halloran (left) receiving the endorsement of the Queens County GOP. (Photo courtesy Queens County Republicans)

Dan Halloran (left) receiving the endorsement of the Queens County GOP. (Photo courtesy Queens County Republicans)

The Queens County GOP endorsement is a big deal, as the new 6th Congressional District sits within Queens County, and so far, Halloran hasn’t received any primary challengers. Still, this will be an uphill battle for the Councilman. The redrawn district is still expected to lean heavily Democratic, and retiring Representative Gary L. Ackerman (D) noted that “if there was a chance Democrats couldn’t hold it, I would be running.” Halloran’s most likely opponent is Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing), who received the endorsement of the Queens Democratic Party. However, Meng will face a primary challenge from two other local Democrats, and the results of that contest could swing the race in Halloran’s favor.

Halloran had considered a run at Ackerman’s seat back in 2010, but wavered, and ultimately backed off due to a lack of resources. Now, with the seat wide open, it seems likely that the Republican establishment will funnel money into Halloran’s campaign in hopes that they can pick up a congressional seat. Of course, one big question mark over his campaign is how religion will affect the race. For as long-time readers of The Wild Hunt know, Halloran is Theodish, a Heathen reconstructionist religion that focuses on Anglo-Saxon gods and traditions.

From the beginning of his political career, Halloran’s opponents have made his faith an issue. None more ardently than Steven Thrasher at The Village Voice, who sensationalized the candidate’s beliefs back in 2009, then following up with a 2011 piece about Halloran’s“strange career” as a city councilman that featured cover art depicting Halloran with a dead sacrificed goat, ceremonial robe and runic cloak. Thrasher is already licking his chops at the thought of Halloran running, making it plain he intends to once more make Halloran’s faith into an issue.

“Either way, we look forward to covering this race and speaking further with Halloran’s constituents, as well as the supportive and disaffected members of his Theodish kingdom, New Normandy.”

The New York Times, in their report, noted that Halloran has “come under the microscope for his religion,” while the New York Post snarkily runs with the headline “well, he’s got the Pagan vote.” Knowing that Halloran’s faith will be an issue, Robert Hornak, executive director of the Queens GOP, was already framing the Republican Party’s response.

“This as an issue of religious freedom, if they want to attack him for that, they can go ahead.”

In short, they are taking the high ground on religion. As for Halloran, PNC reporter Cara Schulz, who interviewed Halloran in 2010, asked him how his constituents felts about his faith after it was made an issue during his election to City Council.

“It’s not an issue….Almost everyone sees what was done as a terrible campaign hit-piece. My service in the Council and advocacy for our neighborhoods has proven beyond a shadow of doubt that my religious faith is not only irrelevant to my public policy… but also a source of great personal strength for me which only inures to the benefit of my Community. I do occasionally hear that being a “Druid” explains why I am such an eco-conscious Republican.”

That may all be, but with everyone predicting a hard-fought presidential battle this November, many Congressional seats are going to swing with the prevailing electoral winds. It seems unlikely that no one will go after Halloran for religion, though I doubt Meng herself would, since many of her supporters and constituents in the New York Asian community are Buddhist. In fact, if Meng were Buddhist herself (something I can’t confirm, if anyone has seen an article where she talks about her faith, please let me know) we could have a race were neither candidate were Christian. Could this be the first truly post-Christian Congressional campaign in the United States? Will we see the first openly Pagan member of Congress in the United States?

I will, of course, be following Halloran’s campaign closely. The Councilman is expected to hold a press conference today at 5pm (Eastern) announcing his candidacy, and I’ll update here with links and other resources once it’s up.

Jason Pitzl-Waters

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