WASHINGTON — After three decades of fighting the culture wars from within the Washington establishment, the conservative Family Research Council decided that it needed a fresh, new face to reach outside and cultivate the grass roots.
Its pick for the job is a 25-year-old newcomer to Beltway politics, but he's already a potent brand name in some circles: Josh Duggar.
Yes, one of those Duggars! The group's president, Tony Perkins, announced this week that he has hired the eldest sibling of the "19 Kids and Counting" reality-TV dynasty as executive director of the lobbying arm FRC Action. Duggar is already moving wife Anna and their three kids — the youngest of whom is 2 weeks old — to the area.
"It will be a culture shock coming from northwest Arkansas, but he's a sharp kid," Perkins told us Tuesday. "He's going to fit in well, I think."
Perkins goes way back with the Duggar family: A former Louisiana state legislator, he ran unsuccessfully for Senate in 2002, the same year that patriarch Jim Bob Duggar made a failed bid for Senate from Arkansas, and they've kept in touch ever since.
The job came out of a conversation Perkins had with the younger Duggar at the March for Life in January. In hiring him, the group — known for its vigilantly anti-abortion, anti-gay-marriage stances — hopes to appeal to more young people and to tap into the huge popularity of his evangelical clan within flyover America. "The big part of Josh's focus is going to be building our grass roots across the country" — Christian conservatives, home-schooling families. Duggar, he noted, previously campaigned for Rick Santorum and for an Arkansas law that would ban most abortions after 12 weeks.
The most recent episode of "19 Kids . . ." showed Josh and Anna house-hunting in the Washington area. Hmmm, sound like a spinoff? TLC says that it's not planning one — and don't look for much Beltway politics on the show, either.
"We'll continue to follow the Duggar family in Arkansas," said spokeswoman Shannon Martin, as well as Josh and Anna's "life in the big city." But when it comes to Duggar's new day job, the cameras won't follow him there.