It’s tough to get elected to Congress in general, much more so when you’re running as an independent.
But that’s what Cecil Bothwell decided to do in North Carolina. The Asheville City Council member wanted to take on “Blue Dog” (conservative) Democrat Heath Shuler.
Bothwell, as you might recall, is an out atheist. That fact was used against him by his opponents when he ran for city council. They also said he couldn’t hold office if he didn’t believe in god. He still won.
Why do I bring all this up now?
1) Shuler recently decided not to run again for Congress. He’s looking for a job as a lobbyist. Classy.
Among his many political positions, Bothwell supports ending the War on Drugs, providing full funding to Planned Parenthood, allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire, and vowing for equal rights for same-sex couples:
Bothwell has been a leader in advocating for the rights of same-sex couples, but an anti-gay-marriage referendum placed on the ballot in North Carolina, on the day the Democratic primary will be held, threatens to bring out many social conservatives who would vote against him. That, along with the fact that Bothwell refuses to “accept corporate or corporate PAC donations,” means his campaign needs as much support as possible. He can win, and I am confident that his record and positions speak for themselves and will lead many readers here to want to support him. You can do so here.
Bothwell needs help, though. He needs funding to fight back against the inevitable backlash. You can donate to his campaign here. If there was a way to get groups of atheists to support him from across the country — r/atheism, I’m looking at you — this could be the first election in which atheists make their voices count.
If Bothwell wins, he would join Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) as the only other openly non-theistic Member of Congress.
This is a big deal. The question is whether or not we can come through for him.
Bothwell spoke at last year’s American Humanist Association conference in Boston for the Secular Student Alliance’s “Leadership Track” for students. In the video below, he told the story of running for office and his future plans:
(Thanks to Luther for the link!)
***Update***: I neglected to mention Kyrsten Sinema, another non-theist, who is running for Congress in Arizona’s 9th district. Sinema is a state senator from Arizona (who stepped down to run for Congress) and — I mention these things only because people running for office aren’t always so forthright about them — an ex-Mormon and a bisexual. You can read about her political positions here.
Here she is in action on the floor of the AZ House:
Sinema is still vying to become the Democratic party’s candidate in the district.