Danny Ferguson lives in Missouri.
Last week, he attended a meeting of the Bates County Democratic Party for the first time. He met the chairman of the county party. He was excited about getting involved with the group.
And the party was excited about him.
Today (four days after the caucus) I got a call from the spouse of a party official. She asked me if I would be interested in running for the State House of Representatives. She said that I would be getting calls from some people in the party, including the campaign of Jay Nixon, who is running for governor, and the representative from a neighboring district.
It’s a long shot to win the seat (there’s a Republican incumbent also running for it), but Danny says it was an honor to be nominated.
Nominated for all of a couple seconds, anyway.
I said, “Now you should probably know that I’m an athiest.”
She said, “Oh, is that widely known?”
“I’m very open about it.”
“Why are you an atheist?”
“Because I don’t believe in god.”
Then I mentioned the poll that Gallup released last year, which says that 53% of Americans would not vote for an atheist. It was the only item in the poll with higher than 50% negative. Mormons, homosexuals, blacks, women and 72-year-olds all did better. The person on the phone agreed that it would be hard to run against a conservative Christian incumbent in a conservative Christian district when you go around saying that god doesn’t exist.
She said, “That, as they say, puts a turd in the punch bowl. I’ll stop the calls, then.” Thus ended my very short political career.
Even a non-atheist would have an uphill battle in this race, but Danny mentioning his atheism up front was for the best. It would have been used against him and the campaign would become about his lack of faith.
At least another, more viable, Democratic can now run instead.
Danny hopes someone in his position might be given a similar opportunity one day and will be able to accept the challenge:
I wish that people who didn’t believe in invisible beings were not de facto disqualified from public office. Yet I’m relieved that I won’t be sinking time and money into a campaign that would very likely fail…
I don’t blame the party for not wanting to run me, but I do wish that the people of this district (and the whole country) could understand that non-believers can be morally upstanding, sensible and compassionate public servants.
I’m optimistic an openly atheist candidate (which excludes Pete Stark, a “nontheist”) will get elected to some high-ranking public office in the near future… not this election cycle, but sooner than we think.