Congressperson Pete Stark’s House Opponent November 9, 2008

Congressperson Pete Stark’s House Opponent

This isn’t as juicy a story as Kay Hagan‘s Senate seat opponent in North Carolina. But it’s still interesting.

Pete Stark (D-CA) won his district handily this week, making him the first openly non-theistic person to be elected to Congress.

As for Stark’s opponent? Barely made a blip on the scene:

Raymond Chui didn’t even know that Esquire Magazine had endorsed his effort to unseat Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, until I e-mailed him weeks after the magazine hit the stands. Chui, a Republican whose family emigrated from Hong Kong to America when he was 15, clearly is pouring more energy into his job as an insurance agent than his quixotic quest to enter the House of Representatives.

Chui told me that he has never run before for office, but decided to pay the $1,552 filing fee and throw his hat in the ring, because, “To be honest, just because nobody else was doing it, and I can’t believe it.” How can the Republican Party not put up an opponent? he asked.

Daily Kos also has a poll asking “Should it matter if someone is non-theist and running for office?

Not surprisingly (on that site), “No” is crushing the other options. But we might as well make that number as close to 100% as possible!

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  • J. J. Ramsey

    I’m not sure if the question is well-phrased. An atheist could say that it does matter if a non-theist is running for office because there is a bias in government against being openly non-theist, and a non-theist can help, at least in a small way, offset this. For that reason, I answered “Yes” to the poll.

  • ubi dubius

    I voted “yes.” Of course it matters! It would be great!!

    Ubi Dubium’s not too happy with me right now. Don’t know why.

  • Yes, it does currently matter and yes it always should. I don’t want right-wing bible-toting Christian nuts running the country.

  • Miko

    I can see a case for “yes,” but I’m going with “no” anyway. The fact that Stark was in Congress for so long before anyone realized that he was a nontheist proves that it doesn’t matter: you either support good policy or you don’t, and nothing else matters.

  • Aj

    Non-theism isn’t a plus, but theism is a negative. Theism, and religion, poisons decision making. Of course it matters. It also matters whether a politician subscribes to faith, revelation, or superstition to inform their politics.

    I think that even people who I disagree with would be better as politicians than those who I agree with but have arrived at their positions from faith, revelation, or superstition. Being a politician isn’t about a set of positions. Sure, we should parce proposed policies through an ethical filter, but politicians are faced with the real world and need to think for themselves as well.

    Politicians that say they include praying in their decision process scare me. Prompting people “lets pray for their families”, doesn’t worry me, it provokes nothing more than an eye roll. However, taking directions from almost certainly imaginary sources leads to unspeakable crimes.

    There are certain categories of people I can’t imagine being good politicians. For present politicians anyway. Creationists, for one. How many policies should be informed in part by evolutionary theory? As the foundation of biology, I would think that every single human endeavor should be informed in part by it, some to minor, some to major degrees.

  • Incidentally, how irresponsible is it to run for office simply because no one else is? That truly speaks to the electorate doesn’t it? “Vote for Chui, if you can be bothered”

  • I VOTED FOR PETE! Yea he’s my representative. And although you didn’t create the poll I share the others sentiment that the question could use a rewrite.

  • Gullwatcher

    Sometimes a representative fits his area so well that it doesn’t make much sense to oppose him. In the Seattle area our congressional representative is Jim McDermott, who was just re-elected with 84% of the vote even though he didn’t bother to run any ads or do any campaigning. We’re fond of our Jim.

  • Larry Huffman

    lol “Should it” or “Does it”…this question goes both ways.

    Of course it SHOULD NOT matter. If the religious right had not already made so many attempts to turn this into a ‘crhsitian nation’…which it still is not…then it should not matter a hill of beans what the religion of the person in office is. I have no problem being led by christians. Our nation was set up to keep religion out and to prevent religious views from supplanting the ideals of a representative democracy.

    Does it matter though? Yes it does. Look at it this way…when our country was founded, many of those founding the nation were deist or openly atheist. Thomas Paine’s works were decidedly humanist, specifically atheist…and deemed to be the most important documents leading to the creation of our nation. At that time no one had a problem with the fact that Thomas Jefferson, for example, had such disdain for christianity. No one cared that Paine was an atheist. No one cared that most of the men gathered to create this nation knew that religion could not play a role. Now it is big news that one openly godless guy gets elected. To me, it sounds like we have gone backwards.

    In fact, all of those people who wave flags and think they know what America is about (and that means one nation under god)…would not want Jefferson or Madison anywhere near the founding…and they would have written off “Common Sense” as the ramblings of a hellbound atheist. Hell…if our early citizens felt as our modern religious right at the time of our founding, we most certainly would NOT have gotten the america we have today.

    So…it should not matter. Our founders, I am sure, did not think it mattered. Jefferson became president…he was not christian…he was deist…and hated christianity, for cause. It does matter now though. It is sad that the religious have warped our nation bad enough for one godless congressman to be a big deal.

  • Larry Huffman: “Look at it this way…when our country was founded, many of those founding the nation were deist or openly atheist”

    IIRC, none of the founders were openly atheist. Ed Brayton from Dispatches from the Culture Wars has pointed out some problems with the claim that the idea that Thomas Jefferson was an atheist, including that Jefferson himself used “atheist” to insultingly describe John Calvin. The founders might be best described as heretics, in that they would consider themselves Christian, but their ideas of what Christianity should be were far from mainstream, even in their own day.

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