U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell, who has long espoused conservative views on social and fiscal issues, said this week that some members of his party are becoming too extreme and interfering with solving larger problems.
To that end, the Virginia Beach Republican said he won't endorse his party's candidate for lieutenant governor, E.W. Jackson, in the November election because of comments Jackson has made about gay people.
Rigell, who opposes gay marriage but not civil unions for same-sex couples, indicated during a meeting with The Virginian-Pilot editorial board that he found Jackson's anti-gay comments unacceptable.
Rigell also expressed deep frustration with partisan politics in Congress - pointing a finger at members of his own party, as well as Democrats, for not setting aside ideological differences to find common ground in major fiscal issues he believes threaten the country's future.
In the statewide election, Rigell said he supports the GOP candidate for governor, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, but won't campaign for Jackson.
"His views with respect to the gay and lesbian community and homosexuality in general are not my own. I'm going to leave it at that," Rigell said Monday. "What he said and, indeed, how he said it. All of it."
The congressman said he did not want to elaborate on his objections.
Rigell was a co-sponsor of legislation in 2011 urging President Barack Obama to uphold the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which requires that federal agencies recognize only marriages of heterosexual couples.
Jackson, a Chesapeake minister who won the party's nomination at a Richmond convention two weeks ago, has called gay individuals "frankly very sick people psychologically, mentally and emotionally."
"Homosexuality is a horrible sin, it poisons culture, it destroys families, it destroys societies; it brings the judgment of God unlike very few things that we can think of," Jackson said in an October 2012 broadcast interview with an anti-gay activist.
U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Chesapeake, endorsed Cuccinelli in March but has not endorsed Jackson, said Forbes spokesman Dean Petrone. He did not elaborate as to whether Forbes would endorse Jackson in the future.
"While the Congressman's priorities remain with his congressional duties, he will work to help elect Republicans this fall as he typically has in years past," Petrone said in an email.
Beyond this year's state races, Rigell said his larger concern is the unwillingness in Congress to find a compromise on a budget as time grows short before a new fiscal year begins Oct. 1 and the government again inches closer to its legal debt limit.
"We end up with more of this crisis situation," he said.
In past years, Rigell and other Republicans attacked the Democratic-controlled Senate for failing to approve a budget. This year, the Senate and Republican-controlled House have both passed budget bills. The next step would be for the two chambers to hammer out a compromise bill in a conference committee. But a handful of Senate Republicans, including Ted Cruz of Texas, want a promise from Senate Democrats that any compromise won't involve raising the national debt. Cruz has said he can't rely on House Republicans to protect his interests.
Cruz "says he doesn't trust his fellow Republicans," Rigell said. "Well, I mean there's some basis for that. But if you adopt that, then where are we? We have nothing."
Rigell, who voted for a proposed House budget that cuts spending but doesn't includes tax increases, has said he would be willing to support new revenues along with budget cuts as part of a compromise.
Rigell said he's upset with recent reports that House GOP leaders are talking about slowing down budget negotiations.
"It has really surprised me that it's now my own party that is the hurdle," he said.
Rigell argued that systemic problems in the political process helped create the stalemate in Congress.
A root problem with Washington, he said, is the redrawing of congressional districts by state legislatures every decade. Generally, districts have become either more Democratic or Republican, he said.
"We are increasingly compartmentalizing ourselves. We're meeting with, listening to and speaking to people who look like us and think like us," he said. If things don't change, Rigell said, "we won't have contested districts."
More and more legislators will be coming to Washington interested in serving their constituents but not necessarily the broader interests of the country, he said.
"Are they rewarded for finding common ground? No, they are punished."
Rigell said he's also more convinced - particularly after the recent state party convention - that not enough astute people are running for office.
"I am just seeing this disconnect," he said. "We need high-quality candidates across the commonwealth and across the country to set aside their personal life and have a season of public service."
Bill Bartel, 757-446-2398, email@example.com