If you call Molotov Mitchell’s campaign office, a cheery receptionist will answer, The liberation of District 16 is under way!

Mitchell, an ultraconservative Internet pundit, is challenging Wake County state Sen. Josh Stein in the general election for District 16, which encompasses Cary, Morrisville and parts of Raleigh including N.C. State University.

Mitchell and his wife own a production company, Illuminati Pictures, and three Krav Maga studios throughout the Triangle. Krav Maga is the utilitarian fighting style developed by the Israeli Defense Forces. His WorldNetDaily show “For the Record” could best be described as a more conservative, deep Internet Glenn Beck (Mitchell claims that Beck ripped off the “For the Record” name from his show).

A former straight-edge punk rocker and avowed Christian fundamentalist who made one of the first Obama “birther” videos, Mitchell faces an uphill battle in the moderate, diverse Senate district. But he has already had some early success courting the state’s Republican establishment.

The INDY sat down with the gregarious candidate at his campaign office in Cary for his first in-person interview since announcing his bid.

INDY: Where did the name Molotov come from?

mitchell: I got the nickname for my incendiary views. My friends called me a Molotov cocktail and we joked around about it and it kind of stuck over time. Years ago I actually made it my legal name.

Are you still straight-edge?

I was X’d up. I’m not straight-edge anymoreI became a Christian, which kind of encompasses straightedge. Jesus did turn the water into wine, so now I have wine and beer every once in a while.

You have the word ‘zealot’ tattooed on you. What’s that about?

I got called a zealot for being very vocal and in your face. A zealot is really someone who just stands up for what they believe in these days. It’s not an extremist as much as it is someone who has zeal.

And you spent a year voluntarily homeless?

It was only supposed to be a month. I saw a lot of things during that stint that actually profoundly affected me politically. I realized that most of the people I came to know while homeless were not really experiencing real poverty. I mean I’ve worked in Haiti and Ukraine, and I’ve seen real poverty situations, and we don’t have that in North Carolina. I was able to stay as clean and as healthy, as I am right now. So the idea of poverty, for me, was really complicated after that year.

You’re mainly known as an Internet pundit and provocateur. What makes you think you can be a state senator?

Frankly, the work I’ve done with “For the Record” is button-pushing. While I do believe many of the conceptsI’m certainly very conservative and I’m a straight shooter”For the Record” is really a way to push the envelope and stretch boundaries. Being a civil servant is about really understanding the needs of the constituents and meeting them. And I think I can do a far better job as the senator of District 16 than Josh Stein.

In one of your videos, you stated that mainstream Islam is “violently intolerant.” How would you earn the trust of Wake County’s moderate Muslim community?

Well, you know, the truth is, what I’m interested in doing in District 16 affects everyone, whether they’re Muslim, whether they’re Christian, Jewish, atheist, it doesn’t really matter. I’m trying to serve the needs of the constituents. And I’m trying to meet them on issues I think everyone can agree on as well. The NSA spy program on N.C. State’s campus is a great example. And another is containing the train wreck of Obamacare.

In another one of your videos, you ate a cookie of Mohammed’s face. How would you represent Muslim or atheist constituents?

I don’t think that I maligned any atheists by eating that faceI don’t know what kind of cookie you could eat to offend them. [laughs]

The truth is, I get it. Rachel Maddow is a good comparison. The stuff that she says outrages me as a conservative. But at the same time I also understand that she’s poking the bear.

She’s not running for office though.

But if she were to run for senate, I imagine she would govern differently than when she was a television persona.

In another video, you said we have no business butting into Uganda and criticized Rick Warren for speaking out against that country’s kill-the-gays law. There’s a large gay community in Cary and Raleigh. You and your wife have both spoken out against homosexuality.

I absolutely respect the right of people to sleep with and love whoever they want in their home. That has nothing to do with my platform; I am not interested in sexual politics one bit. And I’ve stated it before, I’ll say it againI do not hate homosexuals or bear them any animosity whatsoever. In fact, I have many LGBT allies and friends who are not willing to publically come forward and support me because of the incendiary stuff I have said.

You have a relationship with Martin Ssempa, the influential pastor behind Uganda’s anti-gay law.

I have met Martin Ssempa and he was a very kind person. I didn’t know all of his political involvement, but he did a lot for orphans and gave a lot to charity, and so when I said he was a good person that’s what I was talking about. When it comes to Uganda, I really don’t care what laws they pass over there. And frankly, it’s a little bit irritating that people keep bringing it up as if we should still be interested in what’s going on in Uganda.

Stop asking about Ugandawho cares what Molotov Mitchell thinks about Uganda? The truth is, it’s not my country, and it’s not my business. And by the way, neither is Ukraine. What I’m focused on is beating a guy in District 16 who hasn’t gotten jack done for the people here.

You made a provocative, gory film called Gates of Hell where a black power group called Zulu 9 assassinates abortion doctors. What were you trying to say with this film? What are your views on abortion?

It was made to provoke a discussion more than anything. We had a lot of people write in to say “I have never heard half of the things that were discussed in this film.” Most people had no idea that the Rev. Jesse Jackson said that abortion was genocide. When it comes to my view on abortion, I stand with the Republican majority that has successfully raised the standard for clinics in the state and said, no, you can no longer run these back-alley abortion clinics. You have to meet at least the basic levels of medical hygiene. I think that’s pro-woman.

I think the people like Josh Stein voting against it have proved that they’re against women by saying “no, I’m standing with the abortion industry, I don’t care if the utensils are filthy. I don’t care if women get infections. I just care about that Planned Parenthood endorsement.”

You’ve been involved in the birther movement since you made those videos in 2008. Do you still have questions about Obama’s citizenship?

We were hired to produce videos that would put pressure on the White House to make Obama cough up a better birth certificate. Working with other patriots around the country, my little film was able to make the most powerful man in the world produce a second document that he had previously said did not exist. I’m very proud of that accomplishment. Now, moving forward, the truth is, I don’t care where Barack Obama was born.

What are your views on the Moral Monday movement?

I’ll tell youI don’t believe Jesus would be out protesting at Moral Mondays.

How about unemployment benefits? After they were cut in this last session?

I think that by rewarding an extended unemployment you’re not encouraging people to go out and find jobs, so I do think it’s wise to incentivize people, I mean this is a basic business principlepeople need incentives to get out and work, so I do support that.

Do you support gay marriage?

Marriage is one man and one woman. By the way, I know you’re going to ask it at some point, I have never called for the drowning of puppies. [laughs] Unless they deserve it.

Do you believe in the right of workers to organize a union?

I believe in the right-to-work. And I believe in the right of business owners to hire whoever they see fit.

Even at low wages.

I’ll tell you this. Our unemployment problem would be a lot smaller if we deregulated business, if we made sure that we didn’t have overbearing government red tape constantly restricting them, if we had a simplified tax code. That’s how you solve unemployment, that’s how you create jobs. The answer is not causing a scene and getting arrested in front of the capital.

Would you say you’re part of the tea party?

I’m a Ron Paul Republican. Ron Paul is one of the two reasons why I became a Republican. I was unaffiliated until two years ago, but his constitutional eloquence and his passion, his zest for life was very moving. And it made me start looking into the Republican Party more. On a local level, I was so impressed with what the N.C. GOP has been able to do. I mean they took us from having one of the worst, most toxic tax environments in the nationranked 44th to being 17. That’s very impressive. They’ve slashed unemployment. They’ve expanded freedoms like conceal-carry. They’ve required these [abortion] clinics to have higher medical standards, I mean this is fantastic stuff. These guys are winning. And when I saw that, I said “I want to be on the winning team.” And so I put that R next to my name, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

This article appeared in print with the headline “Like fire to gasoline”