8 Candidates We Can’t Believe Might Actually Win

A continuing series.

George congressional candidate Jody Hice, as depicted on his 2010 campaign siteJody Hice for Congress

On Tuesday, tens of millions of Americans will brave long lines and various forms of precipitation to elect the public servants that best represent their democratic values. For better or for worse. Here’s a quick guide to the candidates we can’t believe might actually win—whether because of legal troubles, crushing hypocrisy, basic math, or some combination thereof. It is by no means comprehensive.

Rep. Don young (R-AlaskA)

Bill Roth/TNS/ZUMA

In June, when Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) rose to pay tribute to a fallen Marine after whom he proposed to rename a post office, Young put his hands to his ears, stuck out his tongue, and laughed. In October, he threatened his Democratic opponent, Forrest Dunbar, before a debate about fisheries. “Don’t you ever touch me,” Alaska’s longtime Republican congressman said. “Don’t ever touch me. The last guy who touched me ended up on the ground dead.” Asked by Roll Call whether he was serious about the corpse thing, Young replied simply, “There’s some truth to that.” At a visit to a school in Wasilla later that month, Young was widely criticized for blaming a recent suicide on the student’s friends and family, and for going off on a tangent about bull sex when asked about same-sex marriage. (High schools are a dangerous place for Young. At a previous visit to high school in Fairbanks, Young denounced the National Endowment for the Arts for funding photographs depicting “buttfucking.”)

Even crazier? Roll Call rates the race “Safe Republican.”

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.)


A photo posted by Michael Grimm (@michaelgrimm2014) on

In the two years since we last included Staten Island’s congressman on this list, Grimm has threatened to throw a television reporter off a balcony, and watched a fundraiser plead guilty in federal court to using straw donors. Oh, and in April he was indicted in federal court on 20 counts stemming from accounting practices at a restaurant he owned before running for Congress. Indictment shmendictment. Grimm is locked in a tight race against Democrat Domenic Recchia, but he leads in the polls.

Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.)


The Harlem Democrat is 84 now. He’s been formally censured by his colleagues for a host of ethics violations including unpaid back taxes. He’s lost his chairmanship (and ranking position) on the powerful ways and means committee. And he’s endured his two most competitive primary challenges in decades. But four years after President Barack Obama suggested he end his career “with dignity,” Rangel doesn’t even have a Republican opponent.

Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.)

Wisconsin’s wackiest state senator became Wisconsin’s wackiest future congressman when longtime moderate GOP Rep. Tom Petri announced his retirement in April. Grothman has said Kwanzaa should be “slapped down once and for all,” declared war on weekends, said people on food stamps have it easy, and opposed an equal-pay law on the grounds that “you could argue that money is more important for men.” His rhetoric has alienated even some Republicans—Petri, for one, has refused to endorse his likely successor. But in a district Mitt Romney won by 7 points, Grothman should have enough of a cushion when the polls close. Watch out, Washington: the Grothman cometh.

Jody Hice (R-Ga.)

Hice for Congress/Facebook

They said it couldn’t be done. You don’t simply replace someone like Rep. Paul Broun, the retiring GOP congressman famous for calling evolution a lie “from the pit of hell.” But then tea partiers in Georgia’s 10th Congressional District found Hice, a pastor and political activist who got his political start fighting for the right to display the Ten Commandments at a courthouse. In his first book, Hice mistook a satirical essay for a secret gay plot to sodomize your kids and compared same-sex marriage to marrying a pet. He also believes Islam isn’t protected by the First Amendment because it’s a “geopolitical structure,” not a religion. He faces only token Democratic opposition on Tuesday, and it could get even easier in the years to come—Broun won his last election unopposed.

Rep. Scott Desjarlais (R-Tenn.)

Maybe he just got lucky in 2012, the thinking went. After all, it wasn’t until after the Republican primary that year that voters learned that the fiercely pro-life Dr. DesJarlais had once pressured a patient—whom he was having an affair with at the time—to get an abortion. (He also allegedly had affairs with another patient and several coworkers.) DesJarlais faced a tough challenge from a Republican state senator this spring, but he still managed to win by 38 votes. He’s been unable to campaign as he recovers from neck cancer, but in a safe Republican district, DesJarlais is expected to win easily.

Dave Brat (R-Va.)

Whatever drama unfolds on Tuesday, it’ll be tough to top the shock value of June’s Virginia GOP primary, when Rep. Eric Cantor became the first House majority leader ever to lose a primary. Now the man who beat him, Randolph-Macon College professor David Brat, is taking his Ayn Rand-loving, climate-denying ideas to Congress. Brat has proposed slashing Social Security spending by two-thirds and has argued that climate change is no big deal because “rich countries solve their problems.” His position on education funding is simple. “My hero Socrates trained in Plato on a rock,” he explained. “How much did that cost?”

Gov. Paul LePage (R-Maine)


He could still lose. LePage, who was elected in the tea party wave of 2010 because basically no one voted, faces a strong Democratic candidate in Rep. Mike Michaud. But the fact that LePage’s future is even a toss-up is remarkable in a state that went for President Barack Obama twice. Since taking office, LePage has pushed drug testing of welfare recipients, tried to paint over a mural in the state Capitol because it wasn’t pro-business enough, praised global warming, joked that his repealing of BPA regulations could mean that “some women may have little beards,” and warned that the IRS is on the verge of “killing a lot of people.” He has said that “47 percent of able-bodied people in the state of Maine don’t work,” and he told the NAACP to “kiss my butt.” He suggested at a fundraiser that Obama “hates white people.” And he stuck a knife in the back of his state’s public school system: “If you want a good education, go to private schools,” LePage said in 2012. “If you can’t afford it, tough luck. You can go to the public school.”


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