Larry Pressler, who's running as an independent in South Dakota's three-way race to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson, has averaged around 23 percent of the vote in polls of the contest, which could determine control of the Senate in 2015. With Election Day less than a month away, former Republican Gov. Mike Rounds and Democrat Rick Weiland are both hoping to siphon off support from the third-party entry. And Pressler, who represented South Dakota in the Senate as a Republican from 1979 to 1997, is beginning to take his lumps. On Friday, Politicoreported that he lists his primary residence in Washington, DC. But Pressler isn't just a casual DC resident—he's a self-described townie who briefly floated a run for mayor. Here's the Associated Press in 1998, on Pressler's bid to replace Democrat Marion Barry:
Pressler, now a lobbyist, was not immediately available for comment.
But he told Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, that he has written a three-point agenda, including a private-school voucher program and a "real tax cut" to stimulate economic development in Washington.
"I have lived in DC since 1971, longer than anyone else who's running," Pressler said.
Despite hailing from a state that has relatively few blacks, Pressler told the newspaper said he could connect with Washington's blacks. The district is 65 percent black.
"I have a lot of African American friends," he said.
That's sort of the Trinity of archival dirt—a lobbyist epithet, an affirmation of DC residency, and an awkward boast about black friends. You don't see it very often.
Pressler quickly gave up on the idea of running for mayor, but not before the Washington City Paper's Michael Schaffer dug up this exquisite anecdote about the former senator:
Marching out of a committee hearing a couple years ago, Pressler mistook a closet door for the exit. After initially trying to wait out his colleagues, he finally realized that the hearing wasn't going to end any time soon. He walked back out of the closet, waved as if he'd been talking to someone inside, and left the chamber.
Zach Dasher (left) and his cousin, Duck Dyansty's Willie Robertson
Godlessness is leading the United States down a path toward "tyranny and death," according to Louisiana Republican congressional candidate Zach Dasher. A nephew of Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson, Dasher is challenging incumbent GOP Rep. Vance McAllister in the November election. He made the comments in a 2012 episode of his personal podcast, Willing to Think.
Teasing a discussion of political correctness, Dasher asked, "Am I going to talk about the entitlement mindset of nearly half of our country that is really going to end in utter despair if we don't do something about it? Am I going to talk about how this swift drift away from God will usher in tyranny and death? Well, I probably will talk about that today."
He returned to the subject at the end of the episode:
We will only regress if we shut our mouths. Tyranny will get its foothold—if it already doesn't have it—and in the end, there will be mass carnage and mass death. It's inevitable. 'Oh, Zach, you are such an overreactor; you're like Alex Jones.' Look: I'm here with a philosophy. This is no conspiracy theory; this is a philosophy rooted in historical fact. Every society that has shut down people from discussing things about politics God, faith, when you silence people, every time that happens in a society, you know what happens? Tyranny and death. Every single time.
In another episode of the podcast, Dasher blamed rejection of God for a rise in anxiety disorders. "I know it's not politically correct, but there is a huge element of depression and anxiety disorders that is wrapped up in what I'm saying today," he said. In September, BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski reported on comments Dasher made in other episodes of Willing to Think, in which the candidate blamed the Sandy Hook massacre on atheism. (He also argued that the popular millennial acronym "YOLO" is corrosive because it promotes an atheistic disregard for the afterlife.)
Dasher has put his faith front and center during the race. The campaign headquarters in West Monroe features an envelope taped to the outside of the glass door, instructing supporters to "leave your your prayers or scriptures." In an appearance on Fox News in June, he told Sean Hannity, "My platform begins with God."
Robertson, who supported McAllister during the special election for the seat in 2013, jumped ship after McAllister was caught on tape kissing a female staffer and now backs his kin. At a Lake Charles fundraiser, he referred to the first-time candidate as "my little nephew who came from the loins of my sister."
Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell has a plan to stop Ebola: File a restraining order. Caldwell, a Republican, called the proposal to dispose of Dallas Ebola victim Eric Duncan's incinerated belongings at a Lake Charles landfill "absurd" and pledged to use the legal process to stop the transfer. WBRZ Baton Rouge reports:
"We certainly share sadness and compassion for those who have lost their lives and loved ones to this terrible virus, but the health and safety of our Louisiana citizens is our top priority. There are too many unknowns at this point," Caldwell said. The Louisiana Attorney General's Office is in the process of finalizing the application for temporary restraining order and expects it to be filed as early as Monday morning.
Additionally, the office is sending a demand letter to Texas state and federal officials, along with private contractors involved seeking additional information into the handling of this waste.
Caldwell, whose decision was quickly supported by GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal, didn't offer any details on how burying the incinerated materials would affect the people of his state. It's hard to see any risk—Ebola is transmitted only through bodily fluids, and Chemical Waste Management Inc., which operates the storage facility, sees no problem. And it's not as if the ashes are going particularly far, anyway—Lake Charles is just a quick jaunt over I-10 from Port Arthur, Texas, where Duncan's belongings were burned.
But Caldwell's stance is especially bizarre in light of the great lengths Louisiana lawmakers have gone to position the state as a repository for every other kind of waste. Fracking waste disposal, for instance, has become a $30 billion industry nationwide over the last decade. Much of that wastewater has been dumped into old wells in Louisiana. Louisiana may also soon begin accepting thousands of tons of other states' shale wastewater, which will be shipped down the Mississippi on barges. In Louisiana you can even store radioactive materials in an abandoned salt cavern, and then, after the salt cavern collapses, creating a massive sinkhole and forcing hundreds of people to permanently relocate, pour wastewater directly into the sinkhole. Just don't try to truck the ashes of an Ebola victim's belongings across the Sabine.
Eight weeks before election day, Democrats' best hope in Louisiana's sixth congressional district is at the VIP room of an all-you-can-eat restaurant in Denham Springs, talking about his baggage.
"When I was here in 1971, I was running for governor and nobody knew me, and that was not too good," Edwin Edwards explains to the local Kiwanis Club, in his French-inflected Acadia Parish cadence. "Now I'm running for Congress and everybody knows me and that's not good."
After eight years in federal prison for corruption and one-short-lived reality show, the 87-year-old Edwards is back. The former four-term governor and four-term congressman known for his womanizing and gambling (and one-liners about both) is gunning for the South Louisiana House seat being vacated by GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy, who is running for Senate.
But Edwards isn't even the strangest candidate in the race. The wide-open field also features 10 Republicans, four of whom could win: a self-proclaimed Sarah Palin disciple; a 28-year-old techie; an unabashed Koch brothers supporter; and an outspoken state senator.
James Lee Witt, candidate for Congress in Arkansas' 4th District, wipes away a fresh gob of tobacco spit with his brown cowboy boots and tells me about his old friend Bill.
"He was down here rededicating the Greers Ferry Dam…and he called me after that, because my wife had passed away you know, and he…visited with me for a little while," Witt says, recalling a recent conversation with the 43rd president, as we wait for the start of a parade in Arkadelphia. "I said, 'I need to tell you something,' and he said 'What's that'" I said, 'I think I'm gonna run for Congress in the 4th District.' And he said"—here Witt breaks into his finest Clinton impression—"'James Lee, I think that's a great idea!'"