As Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, and other parishioners left the St. Vincent DePaul Catholic Church in Hampton after services Sunday morning they were greeted with images of dead fetuses on a sign proclaiming, "Locke Pro-Abortion!"
A new right-to-life group, Save the Babies Fund, LLC, parked three trucks in across from St. Vincent DePaul and anti-abortion activists stood outside handing out leaflets that listed Locke's voting record on abortion issues.
"It's absolutely disgusting," Locke told the Daily Press Monday.
The pictures were taken by Hampton Democratic Party chair Gaylene Kanoyton, who attends St. Vincent DePaul with Locke. She gave the Daily Press permission to use the photos.
For his part, Locke's Republican opponent, Thomas Harmon, in the state's 2nd Senate District said Monday his campaign was not involved in any way and that he was just finding out about the incident Monday.
Locke clarified her stance on abortion, saying she is pro-choice, which is not the same as being pro-abortion.
"I'm pro-choice and I do not see that as favoring abortion," Locke said. "I don't feel I'm in a position to tell any women who makes the decision to have an abortion or not that I can tell her what she can and can't do."
She also questioned the groups motives.
"The interesting part is there were three trucks parked in the parking lot of a church adjacent to ours. That's clearly mixing religion and politics," Locke said.
The organization, Save the Babies Fund, LLC, is apparently targeting other local senate campaigns as well and has proved difficult to track down.
A representative from Sen. John Miller's, D-Newport News, campaign said he wasn't aware of ads targeted against Miller. However, an official with Mickey Chohany's, Miller's GOP opponent for the 1st Senate District, campaign said a van with the same message directed towards Miller was spotted recently in a Walmart parking lot in Williamsburg.
She said the Chohany campaign has no knowledge of the group and is distancing itself from the ads.
Locke said as one of the vans left the area near her church Sunday, she saw members of the group responsible peeling off the Harmon-Locke sign to reveal one that had the same message in the Sen. Ralph Northam, D-Norfolk,-Ben Loyola race in the 6th Senate District which read, "Loyola Pro-Life!," "Northam Pro-Abortion!"
Save the Babies Fund, LLC was incorporated with Virginia's State Corporation Commission on Sept. 22, using a Nevada based company InCorp Services as its registering agent.
No information was available on Save the Babies Fund, LLC from the State Corporation Commission other than an address in Virginia Beach, 6405 Auburn Drive, and a signature from organizer Peter Barker.
The group is not registered with the State Board of Elections, nor does it have to be.
The organization is within its rights to produce such messages as long as they don't specifically advocate for a particular candidate - i.e. saying, "Vote for Harmon," or "Don't vote for Locke," according to the State Board of Elections.
This type of political speech was protected by the U.S. Supreme Court in its "Citizens United" decision last year.
The Daily Press did contact InCorp Services to see if more information on Save the Babies could be obtained. InCorp said it could not give out client information but offered to contact the organization with a message to call the Daily Press. As of publishing we have received no calls from the group.
The Daily Press online section email account received the following email Sunday night:
"A group of pro-life Catholics witnessed outside the Catholic church of Senator Mamie Locke today - St. Vincent DePaul's in Hampton Va. Mamie is up for re-election this year, and the group wanted to address her 100% pro-abortion voting record in the Senate. The Family Foundation of Virginia gave Mamie a zero for Family Friendly votes in this last session.
After Mass this morning, Mamie was surprised to see several large signs in front of St. Vincent's that said, "Harmon, Pro-LIfe!, Locke Pro-Abortion! with a picture of a live baby for Harmon and an aborted one for Locke. And despite Mamie's obvious displeasure at the signs, her 100% pro-abortion voting record stands on its own.
The pro-life Catholics were there to witness to their Catholic faith. You can't be Catholic and pro-abortion! Many parishioners took flyers with Mamie's contradictory voting record - a record that puts her in suspension with the larger Catholic Church. Politicians who support abortion are required to refrain from receiving communion, but Mamie does not honor her suspension. In fact, she was a scheduled lector at the morning Mass, and she commented to one witness that her church supports her.
The pro-life witnesses hope that Mamie's parish priest or Richmond Bishop DiLorenzo will take a closer look at the scandal Mamie is causing in her church and for the diocese."
Follow-up emails from the Daily Press to the sender of this message for comment or information on Save the Babies fund, LLC have gone unanswered. If anyone has any contact information on the organization please send it along to Daily Press political reporter Todd Wilson by email to email@example.com or by phone at 757-897-2148.
For her part, Locke said in her political career, which includes serving on the Hampton City Council and Mayor of Hampton prior to being elected to the state Senate, said she's never seen this level of attacks before.
"In all the campaigns I have ever run - and I've been in a heated primary and heated elections before - I've never been in one where it was felt you had to engage in this kind of tactic," Locke said.