Democrats Paint Jane Norton: Super-Lobbyist, Fringe Theocrat

With the Democratic Party set for a bruising primary in the 2010 Senate race, the vaunted “Colorado Model” of left-leaning messaging organizations finds itself in a bit of a pickle. They are, perhaps for the first time since their rise to prominence in 2004, robbed of the ability to speak positively about their top-line candidate–since they don’t know who it will be.

But there is one thing they can all agree on today regardless of primary loyalties, which is the pressing need to cut the feet out from under the presumed Republican frontrunner, former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton. And there’s a limited window of time for Democrats to effectively do that–starting this week, as she makes her formal campaign announcement tomorrow.

So what’s the line shaping up on Norton? Well for starters, as we’ve established, she’s not Gale–though we doubt Democrats will mind if Gale Norton’s scandalous ties to Jack Abramoff, et al. become mistakenly associated with Jane. Few know who Jane Norton is, that’s the point, she’s a tabula rasa as far as the average voter is concerned; therein lying the “crisitunity” for both sides.

There are two main lines of attack under development to weaken Norton before she can get traction: we preview them after the jump.

1. Jane Norton is tainted by family and professional connections to lobbying. Norton’s husband and ex-husband, daughter, sister and brother-in-law are all current or former lobbyists for the banks, oil companies, the healthcare industry, and tobacco companies. Norton’s brother-in-law is the notorious Charlie Black, a career lobbyist whose clients have included such notables as Angolan guerilla commander Jonas Savimbi and Congolese dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. On any objective scale, it’s doesn’t get much more “tied in” than this.

Liberal activist group Progress Now sent a press release earlier today, raising questions about Norton’s own role as “Director of Government Relations” for the Medical Group Management Association–a position she held from 1994-99. Described by Progress Now as the “lobbying arm of a for-profit health trade lobbying organization,” apparently there’s no record of Norton herself having registered as a lobbyist at the state or federal level. We’ll be interested in seeing the explanation for this, though we haven’t seen anything yet as obviously disasteful as 2008 Senate candidate Bob Schaffer’s parasailing off Saipan on Jack Abramoff’s nickel. That said, we can envision an aggregate weight of “wow, this relative’s a lobbyist too?” that could prove troublesome for Norton–especially if any of them were involved in something truly unsavory.

2. Norton is a religiously extreme. Jane Norton is a prominent member of Smoky Hill Vineyard Church, a fundamentalist Pentecostal-cum-“nondenominational” megachurch with “Vineyard Movement” counterparts around the nation. The “Vineyard Movement,” as it turns out, has some rather unusual practices–from an expository article by Rev. Vincent Nicotra of Christian Fallacies:

As part of the “Third Wave” the Vineyard Movement emphasizes miracles, healings, casting out demons, and prophetic utterances as the things that will cause people to be won to Christ and discipled. This thought was predicated on Wimber’s belief that the gospel was ineffective without the accompaniment of signs and wonders. Therefore, “signs and wonders” are employed with certain church growth methodologies to get the desired results, namely converts. These “Third Wavers” are taught that by performing “signs and wonders” they are reliving the days of the apostles.”

Personal experience rather than Scripture seems to be what drives the movements worship. Congregants are told not to allow their minds to quench the Spirit, but to be open to allowing the Spirit to speak directly to their hearts. Consequently, observers of the services have witnessed congregants barking like dogs as well as making other animal noises such as roaring lions, weeping and dancing uncontrollably, shaking, jumping up and down (pogoing), and falling on the floor in group convulsions. In other words, chaos is normative in their services. [Pols emphasis]

In addition to this fundamental flaw, Vineyard’s theology is errant in several other areas, the most serious of these being their teaching on the person and work of Christ. They teach that although Jesus was fully divine, He completely set aside His divinity during His time on earth and performed His miracles as a human through the power of the Holy Spirit. This leads them to believe that man can perform miracles, works, and have knowledge as Jesus did.

While they may not admit it, Vineyard also teaches a form of Dominion theology. They believe that Christ’s first coming restored dominion over every area of life. Therefore, it is the church’s obligation to redeem not only individuals, but every area of society in order to usher in God’s Kingdom… [Pols emphasis]

It’s one thing to be a religiously expressive federal political candidate, for whom some kind of statement of faith is considered basically mandatory. We’re not sure barking like a dog in church or redeeming “every area of society in order to usher in God’s Kingdom” will be positively received by voters, however: in fact if we were Norton, we’d probably keep the theocracy stuff (and the plain nutty-sounding stuff) as down-low as possible. Democrats need to tread carefully here to avoid appearing contemptuous of religion, but most Christians we know will not identify with articles of faith like those described above. At all.

Still another vector Democrats have against Jane Norton is the fact that the GOP rank-and-file does not appear to want her, citing her support for 2005’s Referendum C and general “Owens wing” affiliations. This is an argument to be made subtly, and in a way that firewalls the message at the right wing, since the one thing Democrats don’t want is for Norton to appear “moderate” on any issue–a toxic label in a GOP primary but relatively useful in a general statewide election. How skillfully Democrats manage to exploit this division without turning it into a general election asset will be an important test.

Bottom line: Jane Norton has all the markings of a tough candidate. Her novelty, like that of former GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, makes her dangerous to Democrats–but also presents a serious challenge for her own backers, to define her to the public before Democrats do.

Democrats, as beset as they may be with their own problems, do not intend to make that easy.

39 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. RedGreenRedGreen says:

    If this is Norton’s campaign strategy, it ought to be a fun time in Colorado for the next 11 months.

    • Retired says:

      honorable public servant who was our Colorado’s Lt. Governor? Wow the Colorado model of Democrats speaking about who we are and how we will change thigs sounds like the old politics of personal destruction.

      My bet is Democrats will show huge losses with suburban women when they go down this path.

      I guess the run had to end sometime…

      • RedGreenRedGreen says:

        Yeah, because Democrats treated Bob Schaffer like the honorable public servant he was and kept any personal attacks out of it.

        Going after Norton might lose the support of “suburban women” who are also entrenched corporate lobbyists, and those who bark like dogs, but other than that your implication is sexist and offensive.

        Get real.

      • Ralphie says:

        “We” are simply doing what Republicans do.  We are calling a spade a “fucking shovel.”

        Norton is who she is.  I.e., Charlie Black’s wife.  A consummate insider.

        She has a lobbying background.  What’s wrong with calling attention to that fact?  It is, after all, a fact.

        Oh.  That’s right.  Facts don’t matter if you’re a Republican.

        Sorry if facts offend you.  Jane Norton is a hired gun.  Get over it.  Or get a better candidate.

  2. JeffcoBlueJeffcoBlue says:

    Pols, you should move some of the theocracy stuff above the fold so it shows up on the front page. Casting out demons? Group convulsions?

    She’s more like Sarah Palin than anybody ever knew…

  3. dlof says:

    … does she know how to use Twitter?

  4. One Queer Dude says:

       This church of hers sounds quite colorful.  Makes Piyush “Bobby” Jindahl’s exorcism sound downright vanilla in comparison.

      Apparently the church has no proscriptions against trading in one lobbyist husband for a new one.

      And speaking of her current husband, didn’t he represent Trailhead in its successful lawsuit against Marc Holtzman in ’06?

      Did he ever collect their litigation costs from the Little Fella?

  5. DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

    Are we in a race for the gutter? You know, I haven’t seen any crap like thrown at Michael Bennet. Maybe, just maybe, we should look at critiquing her for legitimate reasons.

    If she’s a religious nut-case then it is a valid issue. But if it doesn’t affect how she approaches her job, then it should be viewed like JFK being a catholic – not relevant.

    The lobbying part is legit but trying to make use of religious intolerance – that’s wrong.

    • cdsmith says:

      The lobbying ties are FAR more worrisome, unless her religious practices start encroaching on her policy decisions.

      But yes, the fact is that she lives in a world completely surrounded by big money and corporate interests.  That should really concern voters, especially when we’re sitting here watching policies that are widely popular be ignored because senators are in debt to big money and corporate interests.

    • RedGreenRedGreen says:

      There’s nothing wrong with having our next United States senator doing this:

      • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

        There are very religious people who have wrought great changes. And there are atheists who have done horrible things. Lets look at what she is likely to do and vote in office.

        • RedGreenRedGreen says:

          it’s a cheap shot, but I stand by it because it’s funny.

          Lets look at what she is likely to do and vote in office.

          See Republican 36’s post below for that. Extreme religious beliefs do matter when adherents believe it’s their purpose to establish God’s law on earth. This isn’t anti-religious bigotry, it’s pointing out that we live in a secular, civil society.

      • Littletonian says:

        Ms. Norton goes to a church that has ties to a movement which includes other churches that have been known to host services where this kind of thing occurs.

        Seems like a bit of a dubious link, at best.

  6. Republican 36 says:

    Some Republicans, including Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland, have said the Republican Party has learned the lessons of the past and will be moving in a different direction but I think just the opposite has happened. The so called conservatives who want the party to move farther to the right are running the show.

    Mr. Penry endorsed Ms. Rowland’s idea that we should teach creationism in public school science classes and now we have Ms. Norton, who is entitled to believe in whatever form of Christianity she wants to, belongs to a church where congregants are “barking like dogs and making other animal sounds,” and though amusing, isn’t the most troubling aspect of her religion. Apparently people who belong to the Vineyard churches believe in the Dominion theology which maintains, as Pols pointed out, that the church (their version of Christianity) has dominion over every aspect of our lives. In brief, she will want to impose her religious beliefs on the rest of us as federal government policy.

    All of this adds up to one conclusion, the Republican Party, at least the Colorado Republican Party, is dominated by religious zealots who want to impose their theology as government policy. We need Ms. Norton to expressly tell us if she favors federal legislation that would implement the Vineyard church theology. We the voters have the right to know where she stands on those issues. The last thing Colorado needs is another senator who becomes irrelevant because of extremist beliefs.

    It is time that some tough questions be asked Ms. Norton.    

    • Republican 36 says:

      Dominion theology holds that the political process is to be used to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. In other words, Dominonists want to impose their theology and religious ideology on the American people through the government. Of course that begs the question just exactly what kind of laws does Ms. Norton favor to impose what she believes is the proper version of the kingdom of God on the American people. This kind of theology in essence holds that their beliefs are superior to all political authority and they have an obligation to impose their religious beliefs on the American people.

      If she is the nominee, and all indications are the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Mr. Wadhams are supporting her, then it is certain the Republican Party is moving even farther to the right and becoming an extremist organization.

      Ms. Norton has a good deal of explaining to do before the election.

      • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

        But the Muslim religion holds that any ground that was once under Muslim rule must be regained. Does that mean any Muslim elected to office will work to have Spain turned over to Arabia?

        I think this is an area where we should tread very gently to ask some simple questions. We should not try to leverage religious intolerance.

        • Half Glass FullHalf Glass Full says:

          You’re one of the most balanced, fair (and I mean that sincerely – not “fair and balanced”) people out there.

          That being said, I worry about an organization whose stated purpose is to create an obligation to impose their belief system on all others.

          And i don’t care if it’s Muslims, Hindus, or my fellow Christians who feel that way. I think it would be fair to ask Ms. Norton whether she holds true to Dominion theology – and then see what type of answer we get.

          I believe Sarah Palin was an adherent to the Third Wave Dominion movement as well.

          • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

            I think it would be fair to ask Ms. Norton whether she holds true to Dominion theology – and then see what type of answer we get.

            But that’s a world away from the above mentioned plan to play on religious intolerance without even finding out what her actual views are.

          • twas brillig says:

            I agree that going after someone’s church is extremely tacky. But if and when it’s in response to someone’s church wanting dominion over our public institutions and public policy, then it’s game on.

            Marilyn Musgrave is an extremely loathsome example of this. She’s Assemblies of God. And Bible thumping was what she loved to do best.

            If Norton proves herself to be of the “There is no freedom from religion” crowd, then she can’t play the victim card. In the meantime, I think it’s not worth going after. If our country’s history of American Protestantism proves anything, there is no consistency of belief even within a denomination.  

  7. Half Glass FullHalf Glass Full says:

    Big article in the Denver Post (at least it’s leading the online version). Tancredo says she’s not ready for prime time.

  8. guesswho says:

    If the idiot Gov had picked Romo instead of Bennet there would be no Jane to kick around.

    Can you image a Ken Buck against Romo?  Andrew by 20 points.

    You call our candidates and elected’s idiots…you harbor the biggest idiot…that being your beloved Gov…you know, the one that treats his wife like a dog.

    You know the guy, I swear…the one that lied to Andrew for months so that his boy Bennet could get a huge financial head start.

    Maybe, just maybe Andrew can fix what your guy did.  He probably is the best candidate…we will see.

    • Republican 36 says:

      She was obviously recruited to run. We haven’t heard a word from her until about three weeks ago. The Colorado Republican Party and the NRSC looked around and none of the contenders seemed up to the job of unseating Senator Bennett so they went looking for another candidate and came upon Ms. Norton but that doesn’t mean she really wants to do this in her heart of hearts.

      Candidates know whether they want to run and if they truly do, they are campaigning or making serious inquires about running long before anyone recruits them. In Ms. Norton’s case it looks like she wasn’t interested and then the national and state party came to her door and asked her to run. Based on my experience as a former campaign manager with candidates who had their heart in it and with those who did not, she appears to be one of the latter kind of candidates. If that turns out to be true, she won’t win.

    • One Queer Dude says:

      Bill Owens has been out of office for two and a half years now.

  9. CastleMan says:

    I’m not sure I like the idea of making an issue of Norton’s religion. Yes, if it is as you describe, then it’s nutty. But that, to one extent or another, can be said about virtually all religions. Besides, wasn’t it the Democrats that stood up for religious tolerance in the past?

    No, I say stay away from that as far as overtly trying to attack Norton goes. Instead, focus on her lobbying ties, the ineptitude of the Owens administration and her general lack of depth on the issues.

    If Bennet is the Dem nominee, it will be close. If Romanoff gets our party’s nod, then I think he can beat Norton with greater ease.

    • Republican 36 says:

      Ms. Norton belongs to the Vineyard church movement which includes about 1,500 churches worldwide but their beliefs are definitely an issue.  Vineyard churches believe in Dominion theology which includes:

      “. . . is a grouping of theological systems with the common belief that society should be governed exclusively by the law of God as codified in the Bible, to the exclusion of secular law.”

      Source: Wikipedia under “Dominion Theology.”

      Her religious beliefs are a real live issue. Does she believe the laws of this nation should be changed to align with her interpretation of the Bible and what exactly is her interpretation?  Does she believe the secular laws should be abolished and replaced by laws based on her biblical views? These are legitimate questions she needs to answer so the voters know where she stands. These questions deal with fundamental issues of separation of church and state, and policy.

      • Given that she’s facing a certain Republican primary, she’s sure to toss a few hints as to her feelings about Dominionist thought to her “base” voters on the way toward the general election.

        Democrats do not need to jump on this now; this is one thing they can afford to wait for the candidate to define herself.  If she wants to be a “moderate” candidate for the voters, she’s going to have to walk a very fine line for the next year.

  10. Lets not discuss about it, there are many more important things to do except discussing MR. Norton. we should all concentrate on doing our ccna Jobs and making a society better place to live.

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