Sioux City businessman and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats got a surprising endorsement on Monday from Keith Ratliff, pastor of the Maple Street Missionary Baptist Church in Des Moines and president of the Iowa-Nebraska chapter of the NAACP.
Vander Plaats was the front-runner in the Republican field until former Governor Terry Branstad entered the race. Ratliff said Vander Plaats' position on same-sex marriage rights was "an important factor" in his endorsement.
Ratliff, a registered Democrat, said there were other factors in his decision, such as his dissatisfaction with Gov. Chet Culver's progress fixing discriminatory hiring practices unearthed under his predecessor, Gov. Tom Vilsack. Both Culver and Vilsack are Democrats.
"I believe marriage is between one man and one woman," Ratliff said. "But I also feel there are many other issues that have to be addressed."
Vander Plaats said he sought Ratliff's endorsement. Vander Plaats also said that, until now, he had not spoken during the campaign about the minority hiring practices or offered a plan for addressing them.
If Ratliff were merely upset about Culver's work on state hiring practices, he could have waited until after the Republican primary and endorsed the GOP nominee. Yet he jumped in early for Vander Plaats, who has never spoken out about minority hiring practices.
Let's get real. Vander Plaats sought Ratliff's support because both men were involved in public protests against the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling in Varnum v Brien.
Moreover, Vander Plaats is the only gubernatorial candidate who promises to issue an executive order on day one halting same-sex marriages until Iowans have had a chance to vote on the issue. Other Republican candidates understand that the governor lacks the power to overturn a Supreme Court ruling. Simple facts about the separation of powers are lost on Vander Plaats and his wingnut endorsers like Bill Salier and Kent Sorenson.
Ratcliff's endorsement is valuable for Vander Plaats, who needs to persuade Republicans that he has enough crossover appeal to defeat Culver. Many GOP power-brokers have thrown in their lot with Branstad, believing that "bold-color conservative" Vander Plaats would lose the general.
Although Ratliff was not speaking on behalf of the NAACP yesterday, it astounds me that the head of any NAACP chapter would get behind a candidate like Vander Plaats. I mean, what could go wrong when a governor unlawfully uses executive powers to defy a court ruling protecting minority rights? I get that the reverend is icked out by same-sex marriage, but you would think that anyone representing the NAACP would recognize the danger of encouraging governors to overrule the courts. But no, Ratliff "rejects the notion the gay rights movement is akin to the civil rights movement for blacks."
Vander Plaats has advocated some wacky ideas, but none more dangerous than letting the governor pick and choose which Supreme Court rulings to respect. The NAACP should distance itself from Ratliff's politics.