Archives For Congress

This week the 113th Congress of the United States of America convened, and while this is a routine part of our government’s normal functioning, both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate saw some historic firsts that should appeal to those hoping for a more religiously diverse representative body. Perhaps the most high-profile is Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu to be elected to Congress, and the first person to swear their oath of office on the Bhagavad Gita.

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

“I chose to take the oath of office with my personal copy of the Bhagavad-Gita because its teachings have inspired me to strive to be a servant-leader, dedicating my life in the service of others and to my country.” – Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

In addition to Gabbard, Sen. Mazie Hirono, also of Hawaii, became the first Buddhist elected to the U.S. Senate (she had already served in the House), and the first Asian-American female senator.

Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii

Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii

“I don’t have a book […] But I certainly believe in the precepts of Buddhism and that of tolerance of other religions and integrity and honesty […] It’s about time that we have people of other backgrounds and faiths in Congress…”Sen. Mazie Hirono (in 2007)

A third first comes from Arizona where Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, the first openly bisexual member of Congress, also happens to be the first explicitly religious “none” elected to Congress.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema

Democratic Arizona Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who was raised a Mormon, is religiously unaffiliated but does not describe herself as an atheist. Her campaign was unavailable for comment to Whispers due to the swearing in, but spokesman Justin Unga told the Religion News Service in November that Sinema favors a “secular approach.” He told the New York Times the same month that Sinema “believes the terms ‘nontheist,’ ‘atheist’ or ‘nonbeliever’ are not befitting of her life’s work or personal character.”

There are other interesting religious facts about the 113th Congress, but I think these three women are representative of the shifts happening in the United States right now. Specifically the rise of “nones” who aren’t necessarily atheists, but also don’t claim a religious identity,  and the ongoing growth of non-Christian minority religions. We are fast approaching the day where hot-button moral issues in this country can no longer be discussed solely within a Judeo-Christian context, and we are already seeing the end of the “white Christian strategy” in national politics. It’s a new dawn, one that started with the November elections, and is now enacted with this new Congress.

It’s election day here in the United States, and most Americans are glued to their news sources of choice to see who will guide this nation for the next four years. In addition, control of our Senate, and the outcome of several local ballot initiatives will decided this day, making for an exciting evening for those invested in our democratic republic. Many American Pagans, like every other group in this country, also find themselves deeply invested in our political process if my Facebook wall is any indicator, and so they should, as the very notions of democracy, of a republic, originated in pagan thought, in pre-Christian societies.  Thomas Jefferson, a key architect of America’s religious freedoms, was proud that our country, in principle, encompassed “the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination.” 

So on this election day, as we wait for the results to roll in, let’s focus on some electoral/election stories of interest to, or involving, modern Pagans.

Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, shortly after voting this morning in Wisconsin.

Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, shortly after voting this morning in Wisconsin.

  • The ever-politically active Starhawk shares some final thoughts on the election, making her endorsements, but also stressing the importance of voting in general. Quote: “Still need inspiration?  Consider the sixty years women struggled to get the right to vote.  Think of those suffragists on hunger strike, force-fed through tubes, lying in rat-infested prisons—they want you to vote!  Think of the civil rights workers in the South, risking their lives to register voters, think of the three who were murdered in 1964, Shwerner, Chaney and Goodman.  They want you to vote!”
  • A Witch-Doctor from the Kenyan village where Barack Obama’s father is buried says his reading predicts our current president will win in a landslide. Quote: “Mr Dimo, who claims to be 105, says that the mystical items dispute news that the election will be a close call.  Pointing to a white shell, he declared: ‘Obama is very far ahead and is definitely going to win.'” I’m sure Nate Silver won’t argue too much with that prediction.
  • AlterNet digs up some rather embarrassing assertions from Republican Massachusetts State Senate candidate  Sandi Martinez, including how popular children’s shows of the 1980s will turn you towards Witchcraft. Quote: “On her cable access show in 2004, Martinez warned that trick-or-treating, Harry Potter books, and the “new age images” presented in 1980s-era programming such as “The Smurfs” and “The Care Bears” could destigmatize the occult and leave children vulnerable to the lure of witchcraft.” Awesome. Well, good thing there aren’t any Witches in Massachusetts … oh, wait.
  • An activist is trying to engage the Buddhist-derived mindfulness movement in politics, and voting. Quote: “If meditation can calm hyperactive kids, ease the pain of drug addicts and tame the egos of Fortune 500 CEOs, it can surely help a stressed-out and polarized country choose a president, says the Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams. An artist and veteran activist from Berkeley, Williams is the force behind MindfulVOTES, a nonpartisan campaign that she believes is the first attempt to mobilize mindfulness meditators.” Here’s the MindfulVOTES website.
  • It looks very likely that Tulsi Gabbard, the Democrat running for Congress in Hawaii’s 2nd district, will win her race and become the first Hindu to serve in the United States Congress. Quote: “It is clear that there needs to be a closer working relationship between the United States and India. How can we have a close relationship if decision-makers in Washington know very little, if anything, about the religious beliefs, values, and practices of India’s 800 million Hindus?” How exciting!
  • Meanwhile, you do know there’s a Heathen running for Congress this election, right? New York’s Dan Halloran, a conservative, Republican, Tea Party politician, is facing off against Grace Meng in the newly drawn 6th Congressional District. There hasn’t been too much non-partisan polling for this race, so each are holding up their internal polls to claim the race is will be won by their campaign. Odds are long for Halloran in this Democratic-leaning district, but who knows for sure? You can read my pretty extensive coverage of Dan Halloran here.
  • Let’s not forget the same sex marriage-related initiatives being voted on today, and the role “nones” might play in how those races turn out. However, Saumya Arya Haas, a Hindu and Vodou priestess, reminds us that nobodies vote on gay marriage should matter. Quote: “American is not a religion; it is a nation. We claim to hold certain truths to be self-evident. That means some truths should be a given — not debated, not voted on. Given. By virtue of being a citizen of this country, each American should have access to the same rights. Instead, we have created, in America, in the year 2012, a priestly caste of people who believe that their interpretation of certain Scriptures should be used to decide others’ fate.”
  • Americans United is fed up with the IRS not enforcing the ban on partisan endorsements from the pulpit, exclaiming “enforce the law already!” Quote: “This is a critically important issue for our democracy. We already have serious problems with vast amounts of money being dropped into campaigns. Imagine how much more devastating it would be if every house of worship jumped into elections, too.”
  • Finally, Jason Mankey over at Patheos reminds everyone that voting is “ours.” Quote: “Voting is one of the great legacies of ancient paganism. All democracies have a bit of classical paganism in their DNA, even when they don’t want to admit it. Want to make your Evangelical uncle’s head explode today? Remind him that democracy began in a town dedicated to the Goddess Athena! Democracy and the vote are our legacy as Pagans!”

No matter who you vote for, don’t forget to vote, and honor the struggles, and origins, of our political system. We’ll check in post-Election Day to what the results might mean for modern Pagans.

Oh, and yes, I already voted. Oregon has a mail-in system that’s quite convenient.

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.

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Glenn Beck calls him “one of the most important men in America,” People For the American Way call him the “right’s favorite pseudo-historian, “ and Time Magazine listed him among the 25 most influential evangelicals in 2005. He’s David Barton, founder and president of WallBuilders, and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann wants him teaching the freshman class of recently elected Republicans all about the U.S. Constitution.

“Rep. Michele Bachmann announced last month that she wants to hold “Constitution classes” for new members of Congress in the hopes of preventing them from being “co-opted into the Washington system.” She’s already announced several people she wants to teach the classes, including David Barton, a controversial figure whose ideas about the constitution and the founding fathers have drawn sharp criticism from both the religious and secular communities. “Every week the hour before we take our first votes, we have our weekly class so that we are reminded of our constitutional jurisdictional limits,” Bachmann told Glenn Beck in a recent radio interview. She mentioned Barton as a key figure in those weekly classes.”

Anyone who pays attention to the nomination and approval of Supreme Court nominees knows that there are different schools of thought regarding the constitution and how it should be applied in court cases, but Barton’s interpretations and views go beyond whether we have a “living constitution” or not, they are something far more radical and dangerous. In short, Barton has a theocracy-tinged exceptionalist view of America that would see the equal treatment of non-Christian religions eliminated. That isn’t hyperbole on my part, I’ll let Barton speak for himself.

The true historic meaning of “religion” excludes paganism and witchcraft, and thus, does not compel a conclusion that McCollum has state taxpayer standing … paganism and witchcraft were never intended to receive the protections of the Religion Clauses. Thus, in the present case there can be no violation of those clauses … Should this Court conclude that McCollum has taxpayer standing … this Court should at least acknowledge that its conclusion is compelled by Supreme Court precedent, not by history or the intent of the Framers.”

That quote is from an amicus brief written by Barton in the case of Patrick M. McCollum; et al., v. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, currently before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. McCollum v. CDCR centers on the state of California’s discriminatory “five faiths” policy, which limits the hiring of paid chaplains to Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Native American adherents.

It’s unsurprising that Rep. Michele Bachmann is so keen on Barton since she tried to funnel tainted contribution money into an anti-Pagan charity (which they later returned), one that has ties to the virulently anti-Pagan New Apostolic Reformation. Indeed, Barton and Bachmann have been chummy for years.

“Bachmann and Barton have a long relationship going back to Bachmann’s time as state senator. Barton was invited to Minnesota to help Bachmann with legislation on school history standards, she’s appeared his radio show numerous times and she and Barton have conducted tours in Washington, D.C., to demonstrate to tea partiers how religious the Founding Fathers were.”

Sadly, Bachmann isn’t the only politician Barton has on his speed-dial. He helped Republican candidate Marco Rubio win a senate seat, and Mary Fallin the governor’s chair in Oklahoma, this November. He’s also close to potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates like Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin.

Despite being engaged in various scandals and outrages, nothing seems to have slowed Barton’s ascent to a position of influence in national politics. That he may be in a position now to “educate” unexperienced politicians elected with a largely fiscal mandate by an unhappy electorate is chilling. If Barton gathers enough “students” among holders of high political office, how long before his distorted perspectives on the Religion Clauses start to carry real weight? As recently as 1999 there was a congressional effort to ban Wiccans from serving in the military. Who’s to say that the next time an anti-Pagan (or minority-religion) amendment gets attached to a vital spending bill it won’t sail through the House and get ignored by the Senate?

What is certain is that any politician who counts Barton as a friend or mentor can’t be guaranteed to have the best interests of religious minorities in America at heart. If your representative, governor, or senator was endorsed by, or takes “lessons” from, Barton, maybe you should ask them if they agree with his stance on the Religion Clauses.

In Pennsylvania’s Sixth Congressional District, Democratic candidate Dr. Manan Trivedi is facing off against Republican incumbent Jim Gerlach this November. While Gerlach has weathered tough political challenges in the past, PA’s Sixth District is notoriously competitive, and it isn’t outside of the realms of possibility for Trivedi to pull an upset, even in this Republican-leaning electoral climate. So why am I covering this particular horse-race? Because if Trivedi pulled an upset, he’d be the first-ever Hindu (“That’s what I put on my dog tags when I was in the Navy.”) congressman to be elected to office. This is significant, because while Indian-Americans have made great political advances in recent years, the unspoken “religion barrier” has remained very real.

“The extra attention carries both positive and negative implications for members of minority faiths, said Suhag Shukla, managing director and legal counsel for the Hindu American Foundation. “I think it sends a mixed sense of hope to young people in the Indian-American community that while we may have, as a society, gotten somewhat over the race barrier, the religion barrier is still there,” she said. At least seven other Indian-Americans are running for Congress or statewide office this year, many of whom openly embrace Sikhism, Hinduism or other Indian religions.”

While Trivedi has maintained that “issues are much more important” than what his religion is, his campaign claims that his Hinduism and Indian background have been used as a tool against him by his opponent. Most recently, Gerlach alleged that Trivedi was playing the “race card” by seeking donations from the Indian-American community. Trivedi responded, slamming Gerlach’s comments.

“These are hardworking American who pay their taxes and contribute to society.  Congressman Gerlach’s campaign is saying that somehow they aren’t good enough to participate in our democracy.  Like many Americans I am so proud of my heritage and grateful for all of the support I’ve received and believe absolutely no one, for any reason, should ever feel shut out of the democratic process.”

Trivedi is part of a record wave of Indian-American candidates this election cycle, and religious and racial issues keep coming up. While the Indian-American candidates refuse to say that their religious differences have been a hindrance, outside Hindu observers are more frank. Vidya Pradhan of India Currents magazine says that candidates like Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley “felt that not being a Christian would hurt them.” Hindu American Foundation co-founder Aseem Shukla says that there is a religious litmus test for high office in America, one that sends an unhealthy message to religious minorities in the United States.

“The Indian American community may be politically mature enough to realize that Indian Americans in high office necessarily serve their constituency and not the ethnic community from whence they came. But the need to “prove” religious fidelity can be unnerving. In 2007, when 358 Christian, Jewish and Muslim members of the U.S. House passed a non-binding resolution recognizing the historical significance of the Hindu and Sikh festival of Diwali, Jindal, then a member of the House, was one of only a handful of legislators that publicly abstained.

Jindal and Haley, as brilliant and dynamic trailblazers, have thrown open the doors to political office, laying waste to minefields of ethnic slurs and perverse allegations that naysayers put in their way. Race is not an impediment to high office, and that is something to celebrate, no doubt. But in their public remonstrations of their parent’s faiths, Jindal and Haley tell well over three million Hindu and Sikh Americans that their time has not yet come as people of faith. And in their absolute denial of their religious heritage, they deny something far greater: a society that privileges pluralism, that no one religion has the monopoly on Truth, and that Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Pagans, agnostics and atheists may invest differently towards the afterlife, but can live in this life with all of the humanity, generosity and yes, frailty of any of those that presume to lead our states or nation today.”

If America is to live up to its promise, it needs to reflect the pluralism and diversity of its citizens. Eventually, an openly Hindu, Jain, or Sikh candidate will overcome the obstacles to election, and it could be Dr. Manan Trivedi in Pennsylvania, or Dr. Ami Bera in California. If either, or even both, were elected they would join Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Hank Johnson of Georgia, who became the first two Buddhists to be elected to the United States Congress. This is in addition to three Unitarian-Universalist, and two Muslim members of Congress. What will the reactions be if they win? Would they be protested? Demonized? Shouted at during congressional proceedings? Or would we finally realize that having religious minorities in office is not only important for other religious minorities, but for the health of our nation?

The Wild Hunt doesn’t endorse candidates, nor am I going to start now. Pagans in Pennsylvania’s Sixth Congressional District should vote their conscience, and not be guided by any endorsement I could give. But I do think that we could be on the cusp of a history-making election (from a religious standpoint), and I want my readers to be aware of that. I’ll be keeping track of these races, and of the race for Nevada State Assembly, where Tea Party-backed Pagan candidate Erin Lale is in the running.

Last month rumors started swirling that newly elected New York City Councilman Dan Halloran, an openly Theodish political conservative, was considering a Tea Party-fueled challenge to Democratic Congressman Gary Ackerman in November. After a few days of speculation, and increasing attention from political reporters, Halloran seemed to back down on a serious attempt for the seat, though he did leave the door open a crack in case he changed his mind.

“I’ll sit down and talk to [local party leaders], but I’m not inclined to run … I haven’t ruled it out, but Gary Ackerman has tremendous financial and political resources. My big picture right now is the state of the city and that our district gets its fair share of money.”

Well it looks like Halloran’s inclination is changing, his spokesman Steve Stites now says that he’s “considering” a run for Ackerman’s seat, while Halloran himself is saying that Ackerman’s support for the recently-passed health care package has “changed things a lot”.

“City Council Member Dan Halloran, a Republican elected last year, said that he is now strongly considering challenging Rep. Gary Ackerman for Congress after Ackerman’s vote for the health care package passed last month and Ackerman’s behavior at the bill’s signing ceremony.”

The big question: does he have a chance of winning? Swing State Project seems to think it’s a long-shot.

NY-05: Dan Halloran, a Republican who won a Dem-held seat on the NYC City Council last year, is weighing a challenge to Rep. Gary Ackerman. Halloran, a practicing Theodist, thinks he can make Ackerman pay a price for voting in favor of healthcare reform. Ackerman, for his part, has $1.1 million on hand and the support of the Queens Independence Party. This district also went 63-36 for Obama (but notably, that’s the same percentage that Kerry got, suggesting there was something of a “conservative white ethnic New Yorkers for McCain” effect here).”

To make this a close contest, two things would have to change, the Queens Independence Party (which backed Halloran for City Council) would have to switch support from Ackerman to Halloran, and he’d have to pick up a lot more money so he could run in a far larger geographic area. He would also have to pick up a lot of support outside of Tea Party and local conservative parties. Recent polling analysis shows that despite the Tea Party’s momentum and enthusiasm, they are predominately a conservative movement, and it’s fair to say they might do little to sway non-conservative-leaning independent voters.

“Although the Tea Party gets pretty decent numbers among independents, support is smaller among self-proclaimed moderates; only about 15 percent of moderates support the tea-party (Gallup) and about 10 percent consider themselves a part of it (Wilson). Liberals, who support the tea-party in the high single digits, are actually pretty close to the moderates.”

Naturally anything can change in politics, but a swing and miss here could harm Halloran’s long-term political future. Especially if local Queens residents start seeing him as someone more interested in higher office than in serving out the term he was just elected for. Ackerman, meanwhile, seems pretty confident that the health-care vote won’t harm his standing with local constituents.

“Ackerman said the health care bill was a “very easy vote” for him and that the bill was overwhelmingly popular in his district. Ackerman added that he was “not overly concerned” with a potential Halloran challenge, noting that the Council member represents only about 20 percent of Ackerman’s constituents, while Ackerman has represented all of Halloran’s constituents for decades.”

I’m guessing that Halloran will remains a “maybe” unless something happens, a bad poll, evidence of softening support for Ackerman, or a scandal, that would make him believe he has a real chance at the brass ring. How long he can do the “maybe I will, maybe I won’t” dance without frustrating his Tea Party supporters remains to be seen.

Even though Republican City Councilman Dan Halloran’s political career has just begun, the openly Pagan politician may be setting his sights higher in the near future. The Theodsman has apparently been wowing them at local Tea Party gatherings, and there’s a growing number who want him to challenge Congressman Gary Ackerman in November.

“Recently I attended a Tea Party event focused on interviewing candidates to take on U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) in the Fifth Congressional District … I believe that strategically we need a proven vote-getter in order to mount the campaign needed to take on an incumbent like Ackerman. We need City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone). While I liked what I heard from every prospective candidate, I was particularly engaged by Halloran, who gave inspiring introductory remarks at the meeting on our traditions of federalism, limited government and the need for fiscal responsibility. Halloran won a heated election just last year against Ackerman’s former deputy director of community affairs, Kevin Kim, despite the congressman putting substantial political capital against Halloran in a hard-hitting and aggressive campaign.”

While I don’t normally consider letters to the editor “news” it notes that the event Halloran spoke at was “a Tea Party event focused on interviewing candidates”, which means the City Councilman must be giving at least some thought to running for higher office. The BlueCollarCorner blog is supportive of the idea.

“When I questioned Dan on the possibility of him running so soon after winning the council seat he was quite apprehensive. He didn’t want to come off as opportunistic to his extremely loyal residents who put countless hours in on getting him elected. I explained to him that as noble as that sounds it’s those same people who are pushing you to take on this race. He again spoke of voter fatigue and financial shortfall and I told him the story of a man that was 30 pts. behind in the polls and not a dollar to his name and trying to get the seat of a man who was the ” Lion of the Senate” That man was Scott Brown and that lion was Ted Kennedy. The Tea Party Factor is unlike any movement we have seen in our lifetimes and if you are picked to serve, serve you must not because you are being forced it’s because we need you.”

These populist rumblings in favor of Halloran are getting noticed,  But even if Halloran does throw his hat into the ring and decide to run for Congress he would face a far tougher battle than before. First, there’s no telling exactly how strong the Tea Party vote is in New York’s Fifth Congressional District, could the populist movement bring in the votes and volunteers he needs? Would he benefit from a larger “Get Out Of Our House” groundswell? Secondly, you can bet the Pagan issue would get used against him again. While that tactic ultimately backfired on a neighborhood level, where he was a known commodity, it could seriously damage a larger campaign. Third, and finally, he’d need a lot of money, far more than the shoestring he ran his last campaign on. Will the New York GOP have his back, or would have have to depend on small donations from individual voters?

For now, Halloran seems to be testing the waters, being understandably cautious to overreach so early in his political career. But if support continues to grow, and Ackerman looks weak, we may see the reemergence of candidate Halloran. If that happens, you can be sure the Pagan Newswire Collective, Pagan+Politics, and The Wild Hunt will be covering the race.