In an effort to shave votes from the Republican Party’s conservative support base, Florida gubernatorial candidate Chris King has self-identified as an evangelical, despite supporting Democratic policies that directly contradict traditional evangelical beliefs.
King, an elder at a Florida church, bills himself as a “progressive evangelical.” However, King takes a typical Democratic stance on most issues, supporting gun control, abortion, the legalization of marijuana, medical welfare, and bringing Syrian refugees to the U.S., according to Religion News Service (RNS). In no issue, beyond stated Christian beliefs, do King’s policy stances actually align with those of evangelicals.
“I am a progressive,” King told the Orlando Sentinel. “I am somebody who believes in the values of equality and justice and fairness and care for the neediest among us.”
Rev. Jim Henry, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said that a Democratic candidate established as an evangelical could garner support from up to 30 percent of “white evangelicals,” especially those who are not ardent supporters of the GOP.
Founder of Sojourners Jim Wallis, who is also a self-proclaimed progressive evangelical, said that King’s claim as a man of faith is necessary for his campaign’s victory. “In close elections, being friendly to religion and religious people would change the outcomes,” Wallis said. “If you don’t take the concerns of religious people seriously, you lose elections.”
Democrats have earnestly sought ways to curry favor with evangelical voters ever since evangelical support for President Donald Trump helped him win the election. Some Democrats think that King may be the answer, but between traditional evangelicals’ skepticism of King’s party and his stance on abortion, and King’s own party’s discomfort with evangelical ideology, that remains to be seen.
In fact, King’s bid to garner support from a conservative voter base may backfire. Aubrey Jewett, a political scientist at the University of Florida, said that the label of evangelical Democrat makes King contentious for both parties.
“The Democratic Party is often perceived as anti-Christian,” Jewett said. “Some in the base of the Democratic Party are not anti-Christian, but are very uncomfortable with evangelical Christianity.”
“I’m the case study of whether faith is a deal killer in the modern Democratic party,” King said.
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