Little shocks Americans raised in the colorful world of US politics, but when an upstart conservative candidate launched her Senate campaign declaring “I’m not a witch,” eyebrows were raised.
The fresh-faced Christine O’Donnell, who is 41 but looks a decade younger, has leaped into the national spotlight since she scored an upset victory over the official Republican candidate to win the Delaware nomination for Senate.
She is running against Democratic Party candidate Chris Coons, aiming to win the seat once held by US Vice President Joe Biden in the Nov. 2 elections.
Last month’s surprise primary win by the Tea Party-backed O’Donnell over the establishment Republican candidate thrust her into the media glare.
And political pundits were soon feasting on a host of videos dragged up from the archives dating back to the 1990s and filmed during the years of O’Donnell’s conservative, Christian-based political activism.
In one video, O’Donnell advises young people against masturbation as part of a crusade by a group called Savior’s Alliance for Lifting the Truth (SALT) against pornography and abortion.
“The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery. You can’t masturbate without lust!” she says in the MTV documentary from 1996 advocating sexual abstinence.
In another interview she admits to having tried witchcraft when she was young.
“I dabbled into witchcraft. I never joined a coven,” she says.
Then came allegations that she had misrepresented her academic credentials, claiming she had studied at Oxford University, England, when in fact she had joined a course whose organizers rented rooms at the prestigious college.
There were other eyebrow--raising images such as when O’Donnell explained the “myth” of the theory of evolution, or claimed that “American scientific companies are crossbreeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains.”
O’Donnell, who survived charges of past financial -improprieties, has a history of rightwing activism and is well-known to Delaware voters.
This time around though, she managed to harness a groundswell of anti-establishment anger, and backed by an endorsement from former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, won a stunning victory in Delaware.
The ensuing barrage of bizarre videos and statements forced her underground for several weeks to regroup her forces and reshape her strategy.
And she came out fighting in her first campaign ad last week.
“I’m not a witch. I’m nothing you’ve heard. I’m you,” she says. “None of us are perfect, but none of us can be happy with what we see all around us: politicians who think spending, trading favors and back-room deals are the ways to stay in office. I’ll go to Washington and do what you’d do.”
According to the polls on the specialist Web site RealClear-Politics, O’Donnell is running 16 points behind Coons.