- Associated Press - Sunday, November 3, 2013

RICHMOND - The candidates for lieutenant governor offer Virginia voters a stark choice: a socially conservative Republican opposed to abortion and a Democratic state senator and physician best known for his defense of women’s reproductive rights.

Sen. Ralph S. Northam and E.W. Jackson also part ways on other issues, including same-sex marriage and an expansion of Medicaid in Virginia. Mr. Jackson is against both; Mr. Northam backs them.

Each seeks to succeed Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a Republican who was outmuscled in his expected bid for governor by conservative supporters of Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the party’s nominee.

Besides their political differences, Mr. Jackson and Mr. Northam have traveled very different paths to Tuesday’s general election.

Mr. Jackson has said on campaign stops that he grew up in a Pennsylvania foster home lacking indoor plumbing. From that impoverished start, he went on to serve in the Marine Corps and graduate with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts in Boston and a law degree from Harvard, according to his campaign literature. He also was accepted into the Baptist ministry and studied theology at Harvard Divinity School.

E.W. Jackson, a minister from Chesapeake, is the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of Virginia. (associated press)
E.W. Jackson, a minister from Chesapeake, is the Republican candidate for lieutenant ... more >

Mr. Jackson, who traces his family ties to Virginia back two centuries, practiced small business law in Boston for 15 years. He retired from private practice in 1997 to become a full-time minister. He lives in Chesapeake, where he founded a nondenominational Christian church.

Mr. Northam was born on Virginia’s Eastern Shore and graduated from Virginia Military Institute. After he graduated from Eastern Virginia Medical School, he served eight years of active duty in the Army, rising to the rank of major. In Norfolk, he practices pediatric neurology at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters and is an assistant professor of neurology at his alma mater’s medical school, according to his campaign literature.

Mr. Northam has served in the Virginia Senate since 2008. There, he successfully sponsored legislation to prohibit smoking in restaurants and has been an advocate for women’s health. He said social issues, while important, detract from the larger role of state government.

“We’ve got to get back to talking about what’s important to Virginia regarding our economy and jobs,” he said. “We need to talk about things like good transportation and infrastructure.”

As a physician, Mr. Northam added, legislatures dominated by men should not be getting between doctors and the women they treat.

“The patient-physician relationship is a sacred relationship, and legislators shouldn’t be telling providers such as myself how to practice medicine,” he said. “It is a very slippery slope to go down.”

Mr. Northam said “the less abortion, the better,” but he said the way to achieve that is through education and better access to health care.

While Mr. Jackson calls himself “pro-life,” he insisted in an interview that he would not attempt to outlaw abortion in Virginia, but would reduce it through “persuasion.”

“We have to incrementally do what we can to save the lives of children,” he said. “What I’m interested in doing is trying to change the hearts of people so there is a social consensus in our country that it is simply not a good thing.”

Mr. Jackson, however, has been criticized for comparing abortion to slavery, and he drew the parallel in an interview. But he said critics don’t get the nuance of his message.

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