Stacey Dash is running for Congress! (there goes her social life)

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Stacey Dash
Photo: Gage Skidmore, CC2.0

Clueless star and former Fox News commentator Stacey Dash is running for Congress this November in the California 44th District. That certainly was not expected.

Stacey Dash to DC

She has yet to issue an official statement, or even fully launch her campaign website, but the Republican actor and conservative pundit has filed papers with the Federal Election Commission, making her candidacy official.

Stacey Dash is running against current incumbent of the California 44th District, Nanett Barragan.

Standing in the 44th California Congressional District, Dash is so far the only Republican to register before the March 9th filing deadline. The lack of other Republican interest is hardly a surprise. Under California’s open primary system, the only two Republican candidates in the 2016 election came in 6th and 7th place respectively, capturing a mere 9.1% of the vote between them.

The current incumbent, Nanette Barragan, defeated fellow Democrat Isadore Hall in the general election. It may be a rematch as Hall has entered again for 2018.

The 44th includes the Los Angeles neighbourhoods of Compton and Watts, which Trevor Noah described on the Daily Show as ‘So black they make Wakanda look like Panera.”

Dash regularly endures intense criticism from elements in the African-American community for some of her more controversial statements – calling for an end to black-specific media like Jet magazine and BET among the most notable.

Running in the California 44th is therefore a brave and unexpected move. Stacey Dash’s celebrity alone is unlikely to win her enough votes in such a deep blue district to make it to the final run off. If anything it probably hurts.

Why is Stacey Dash running?

Stacey DashBecause there is so little chance a Republican can win the seat, especially one with Dash’s history, many people are assuming she is running as a publicity stunt. Trevor Noah, on the Daily Show edition referenced above, made just such a claim.

As nearly all political campaigns are on one level or another publicity stunts, that seems hardly fair.

There may not be many Republicans in the California 44th District, but there are some. Without Dash’s entry into the race it is entirely possible the June primary ballot would have contained nothing but Democratic candidates – hardly healthy for American democracy. As we’ve documented before, finding reasonable candidates to run in noncompetitive districts can be a real headache, even for the major parties.

In a businesses as tough as television and film, it is true that the extra publicity may not hurt Dash. Released from Fox News at the start of 2017 (following a suspension for uttering a forbidden word on air), she does not appear to have a huge pipeline of other projects to work on. According to her personal blog, she has signed to join the cast of an upcoming film about Roe v Wade, but  has experienced difficulty in Hollywood because of her outspoken conservative opinions.

Criticizing Stacey Dash for having an acting career to further is hardly fair, however. Her outspokenness in the world of politics might be ruffling feathers among the acting community, but it is what we expect from potential political candidates. Whether you agree with her views or not (and many in the California 44th will not) she is a legitimate candidate, not an actor pulling a stunt.

And yes, she might use the increased profile as a platform leading to bigger things, but those bigger things might be a statewide race, or a race in another more winnable district. Between now and the June primary she will face intense scrutiny and criticism. How well she interacts with voters and how effectively she puts across her positions could just as easily put her on the radar of a GOP strategist as a television producer.

Until we hear directly from Dash it is impossible to know exactly what her motivation is. Considering the unexpected stands she has taken on her career so far, do not be surprised if she surprises you.

UPDATE: Stacey Dash announced she was withdrawing her candidacy on March 30th 2018. The decision came too late for her name to be removed from the June 11th primary ballot, however.

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