Profile: Christine O'Donnell, Delaware Senate candidate
- 21 September 2010
- From the section US & Canada
Newly-minted Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell may have pulled off the biggest US electoral upset of the year. But she remains a murky figure - not least due to the recent resurfacing of TV clips that show her admitting to "dabbling into witchcraft" and hitting out on issues of sexuality, as the BBC's Katie Connolly reports.
Ms O'Donnell's surprise victory in Delaware over the Republican party's favoured Senate candidate, Mike Castle - a fixture in Delaware politics since 1980 - was spurred largely by endorsements from Sarah Palin and groups from within the right-wing, grassroots Tea Party movement.
Relatively little is known about the 41-year-old former political lobbyist's views on specific policies or her agenda if elected, but she is pro-gun, anti-abortion, and has said there was more evidence to support the idea of creationism than Darwin's theory of evolution.
She opposes regulating greenhouse gas emissions and has called President Obama "anti-American".
Ms O'Donnell, who is unmarried and has no children, is a vocal proponent of abstinence before marriage.
This is the third time she has sought a Senate seat. She was well beaten by then-Senator Joe Biden in 2008, and failed to win the Republican primary in 2006.
She has been shunned by several Republican leaders. The Delaware Republican party chair, Tom Ross said she "couldn't be elected dog-catcher".
Karl Rove, the man credited as the architect of George W Bush's presidential victories, accused Ms O'Donnell of saying "nutty things" and destroying Republican hopes for winning the Delaware Senate seat.
Allegations of financial mismanagement have plagued Ms O'Donnell.
In 2008 she defaulted on her mortgage and in 2010 the US government filed a claim stating that she owed more than $10,000 (£6,430) in back taxes and penalties. She has said this was a mistake, and a computer error.
Although she claimed to have graduated from college in 1993, she didn't receive her degree until 2010 due to a dispute over tuition bills and required course credits.
Accusations that she inappropriately used campaign funds - to pay her rent, for example - have also surfaced.
She is extremely guarded about her personal life. She told the Weekly Standard magazine that she keeps her home address secret out of fear that she will be followed or her house vandalized.
But it is the statements she made as a conservative activist which are generating the most controversy.
Ms O'Donnell has spent much of her career toiling in the "values movement", a shorthand term describing conservative, religious political activism.
She founded the Savior's Alliance for Lifting Truth (SALT), a conservative lobbying group focused on promoting sexual abstinence, and worked for Concerned Women for America (CWA), an anti-abortion group.
Ms O'Donnell was soon recognized as a telegenic and outgoing spokesperson for conservative causes, and she made numerous TV appearance espousing controversial views.
In an appearance on MTV, she railed against masturbation, equating it with adultery.
"It is not enough to be abstinent with other people, you also have to be be abstinent alone," she said. "The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery, so you can't masturbate without lust."
She is also on record opposing mixed-sex dormitories and bathrooms in colleges.
"What's next? Orgy rooms? Menage a trois rooms?" she was quoted as saying.
In 1999, she admitted on a political comedy programme that she had "dabbled" in witchcraft as a student but never joined a coven.
But she laughed off critics saying: "How many of you didn't hang out with questionable folks in high school?"
At present, Ms O'Donnell is not expected to beat Democratic candidate Chris Coons in the general election. But as her primary victory proved, in 2010, the American electorate is feeling mighty unpredictable.