Hate-watching the Midterms

On the evening of November 6th, I’ll be watching the results come in for the 2018 midterm elections. You should too. There are many ways to experience the event: maybe you want to watch Wolf Blitzer repeatedly state the obvious on CNN. Maybe you want to incessantly refresh Nate Silver’s twitter feed. Maybe you want to spend all night with your eyes glued to a jittering needle.

There are 435 House seats, 34 Senate seats, 36 Governor’s mansions, 1 Mississippi special election, thousands of state legislative seats, and hundreds of ballot initiatives up for grabs. The midterms can be a little overwhelming.

I think it’s helpful to pick a handful of races that you’re interested in for one reason or another, and follow these all night. Here, I’ve described 10 races that I plan to watch. They were chosen not because of their political importance or their competitiveness, but because each represents a chance to deny elected office to a truly awful human being.

1. Chris Collins (NY-27)

In August, Chris Collins was arrested by the FBI on charges of insider trading. The details of the case are scammy and gross and they’re made all the more hilarious because Collins was supposedly at the White House while he was committing the crime. Collins then tried to drop out of the race so that GOP officials could appoint a less toxic candidate, but New York makes it surprisingly hard to get off the ballot, so he had to reverse course for fear of splitting the ticket.

Collins is up against Nate McMurray, a Fulbright Scholar.

2. Duncan Hunter (CA-50)

Chris Collins was the second GOP congressman to endorse Donald Trump. Duncan Hunter was the first. The two men have a lot in common. For example, he was also indicted by the FBI this past August. He was accused of misusing campaign funds to buy a plane ticket for his pet rabbit (among other things). When confronted over this, he tried blaming his wife.

Incidentally, Hunter has been running a markedly racist campaign, implying that his opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, is a “national security risk”. Campa-Najjar (who is a Christian, for what it’s worth) held a security clearance for his work for the government between 2013 and 2017; Hunter, as an indicted criminal, would be unable to obtain one.

3. Greg Gianforte (MT-AL)

You might have heard about Gianforte this past May when he body-slammed Ben Jacobs, a reporter from The Guardian, a couple days prior to the Montanan special election.

Disturbingly, Gianforte managed to win that election and he may very well win on November 6th as well. By the way, here was Duncan Hunter’s statement about the body-slamming incident: “It’s not appropriate behavior. Unless the reporter deserved it.”

Gianforte is also a Young-Earth creationist, and he and his family donated $290,000 to the Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum which promotes the belief that humans and dinosaurs coexisted and that dinosaurs were on Noah’s Ark.

Gianforte is up against Kathleen Williams.

4. Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48)

Dana Rohrabacher is commonly called “Putin’s favorite congressman.” This reputation is well-earned. The FBI warned Rohrabacher in 2012 that Russian agents were attempting to recruit him. More recently, the congressman claimed that he didn’t believe the Russians hacked the DNC. In 2016, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy joked: “[t]here’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.”

The congressman is also one of several politicians on this list who claims to support protections for pre-existing conditions despite having made every effort to repeal Obamacare while in elected office.

Rohrabacher faces Harley Rouda this November.

5. Devin Nunes (CA-22)

In the 115th Congress, Devin Nunes’s primary role has been to play defense for Trump. He headed the short-lived and highly-partisan House congressional investigation into ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia, which not only concluded that there was no collusion between the two, but also that Russia never sought the election of Trump, in direct contradiction to the conclusions of the U.S. intelligence community.

Nunes’s opponent is Democratic candidate Andrew Janz.

6. Steve King (IA-04)

Steve King is a white supremacist. Steve King’s Wikpedia page contains one full top-level section named “Racist comments, controversies and far-right politics”. Steve King compared the torture and prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison to “hazing”. In reference to earlier controversial comments he made, King said “with the inter-marriage, I’d like to see an America that is just so homogenous that we look a lot the same”.

Steve King keeps a small Confederate flag on his desk. This is despite the fact that Iowa was a Union state. “Steve King endorses a bona fide white supremacist for Toronto mayor” is a headline that is true. “What, Congressman Steve King Asks, Have Nonwhites Done for Civilization?” is another headline that is also true.

King’s opponent is Great Slate member J.D. Scholten.

7. Kris Kobach (KS Gov.)

In an editorial piece this past August, the New York Times described Kris Kobach as “quite possibly the most pernicious public official in America”. Kobach is the secretary of state of Kansas. Unlike the secretary of state of the federal government, state government secretaries of state don’t do very much. Their primary role is to be the chief elections official. You’d think that we’d want this to be a neutral, independent position, but in practice the secretary is almost always a partisan politician.

Republican secretaries of state tend to enact laws and regulations that make it harder to vote, because this will help more Republicans get elected. Even given this general rule, Kobach is unusually committed to the cause of systemic disenfranchisement. He introduce and helped pass one of the strictest voter ID laws in the nation (whose key provision was later found unconstitutional and overturned). He famously headed Trump’s disastrous voter fraud commission which allowed him to ingratiate himself with the president and gain his endorsement in the primary.

So, as secretary of state, Kobach has an enormous influence on the upcoming election, an election in which he is currently running for governor of the state. You’d think he’d have to resign his current post as it creates a clear conflict of interest, but sadly that’s not how it works.

He’s also racist, Islamaphobic, and a birther, although I suppose none of that is particularly unusual for a politician in the modern GOP.

Kobach is running against Laura Kelly.

8. Brian Kemp (GA Gov.)

“Republican secretary of state running for governor whose last name starts with K” actually describes two people on this list. We already discussed Kobach, so now let’s talk about Brian Kemp, who’s been in the news recently because he put 53,000 voter registration applications on hold. You see, in 2017 Kemp championed a law that the Georgia legislature passed which requires the state to only accept voter registration applications which exactly match the information on file for that voter. This law tends to disproportionally affect minority voters, which is of course the point.

Georgia is also one of nine states with a “use it or lose it” provision, allowing them to purge individuals from the voter rolls if they haven’t voted in recent elections. Kemp has been more than happy to exercise this power, leading to a spike in removals under his tenure. He’s also launched multiple investigations into organizations that register minority voters, attempting to intimidate these groups into stopping their work.

Kemp is up against Stacey Abrams who was minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives from 2011 to 2017.

9. Rick Scott (FL Sen.)

Before getting into politics, Rick Scott was CEO of Columbia/HCA, a for-profit healthcare facilities operator. Under Scott’s leadership, the company was fined $1.7 billion for defrauding Medicare, Medicaid and other federal programs, the largest such fraud-settlement fine ever imposed at the time.

As a result of his “success” in the business sphere, Scott acquired some pretty deep pockets, and he spent $75 million of his money to narrowly win the governorship of Florida in 2010. He spent 8 years as governor, racking up too many awful actions for me to list. Let me highlight two: First, the horrifying system Scott created to make it difficult for convicted felons to vote. It’s really worth watching this Last Week Tonight video on the subject.

Second, Scott’s relentless flip-flopping on healthcare policy positions. During his first term as governor, he opposed the Medicaid expansion in Florida. Then during his re-election campaign in 2014, he changed his mind and decided to support it. After getting re-elected, he flipped again and fought against legislation in the Florida Senate that would have enacted the expansion. More recently, Scott has voiced support for protecting pre-existing conditions, despite the fact that his attorney general is currently suing the federal government to dismantle Obamacare.

Since he is term-limited as governor, Scott is currently running for one of Florida’s senate seats against incumbent Bill Nelson.

10. Ron DeSantis (FL Gov.)

So, which Republican is running in the Florida governorship race? Ronald Dion DeSantis. Look, you can learn everything you need to know about DeSantis by watching this campaign ad he put out. It’s nuts.

DeSantis is in a tight race against Democratic candidate and Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum.

Closing thoughts

Some of the people on this list are going to win. However, I can almost guarantee that some will lose, and each loss will be a real victory for the people living in that district or state. Watching the candidates lose should hopefully be enjoyable, but I promise you that watching them lose after you voted them out yourself will be even better. If any of these people are on your ballot, I strongly urge you to vote.